To: London Borough of Lewisham
Lewisham Council: Develop Besson Street for local housing needs
As the housing crisis gets ever worse, public land should be used to provide housing for those who need it most. This petition therefore demands that the council's Besson Street site in New Cross Gate be developed as a non-profit scheme aimed at those on low incomes, so that it can provide housing for those who need it in New Cross.
Why is this important?
The Borough of Lewisham plans to develop a private rented sector (PRS) scheme on its site at Besson Street, which has been in public hands for decades. While a council-run PRS scheme does avoid the loss of social housing to Right-to-Buy, Lewisham have unfortunately decided to set 65% of starting rents at market level in this scheme, partnering with a private company that will profit from this. While Lewisham say profits will also fund council services, it will not address the housing needs of local people. In the midst of a housing crisis Lewisham should be using public land to help house local people afflicted by the crisis.
While the Besson Street site is technically in Telegraph Hill Ward, it is more obviously part of the other areas north of Queens Road, which according to the GLA ward atlas are in the lowest median income bracket in London. This means that market rents in new-build housing will be well out of the reach of nearly everyone who lives locally.
The result will be housing provided for higher income people from outside of the area. This will help drive a process of gentrification that will make the area more expensive for everyone. Given the diversity of the area, and the economic gap that - for historical reasons - exists between white and minority ethnic groups, this means the scheme will disproportionately disadvantage the ethnic minority residents who live locally.
Lewisham even present this scheme, on a site which used to contain council housing, as one to help address the housing crisis. Whose housing crisis are they trying to solve? Those who lack new-build flats at market prices? There are plenty of such schemes being built all around Lewisham. The real housing crisis - among those on low incomes - is being ignored by this scheme. This is not what residents should expect of their local authority. We call upon Lewisham to use the Besson Street site to provide housing for those in most need.