Correspondence with Lambeth Council over Super Co-op

Below is the correspondence strand between Lambeth United Housing Co-operative and Lambeth Council that resulted from our third (but really our first proper) meeting with them on July 17, 2013, to discuss the Super Co-op proposal we were advancing – to avoid being evicted from our co-op homes, to retain social housing units and to avoid displacing others on the housing waiting list.

Download Savings for Lambeth Council

In order to get to our meeting with the council of July 17, Lambeth United Housing Co-operative had to jump a number of hurdles.

They included:

1. The fact that the first meeting on November, 15th, 2012 (present: LUHC group, Sue Foster, director of housing and regeneration, Rachel Sharpe, divisional director for housing, Cllr Lib Peck, then cabinet member for housing) was not minuted properly despite our request that it was. We were subsequently told that there were two sets of notes – ‘theirs’ and ‘ours’ – making a consensus about what happened and what should be on the agenda of the next meeting impossible.

2. The above then allowed Cllr Lib Peck (by now leader of Lambeth Council) to write to us in January (despite undertaking to do so 2 weeks after the November meeting) before the next, delayed, meeting, and set out her vision of co-op housing in Lambeth. She did so without even mentioning the Super Co-op option we had advanced, as if it was never even presented! The letter arrived less than two working days before the meeting.

3. Consequently the meeting of 28 January, where LUHC were joined by a representative from The Co-operative Enterprise Hub and a social housing expert, achieved nothing. Sue Foster and Rachel Sharpe merely referring to Lib Peck’s letter, while Cllr Pete Robbins, the new cabinet member of housing, did not say a word.

4. An approach by LUHC to a local housing provider in Feburary 2013 solicited an offer for us to be introduced to Lambeth Council’s chief executive, Derrick Anderson. When we chased this up we were told that Anderson had declined. When we chased up with Anderson directly and mentioned the housing provider concerned (i.e. the name of the organisation rather than the individual who we met) we suddenly had a call from the housing provider to say that we could not invoke the organisation’s name. We accepted this, but were surprised by the situation that had clearly come from Lambeth exerting pressure on the social housing provider.

Renewed pressure resulted in the setting up of a meeting on July 17th this year, 6 months on from the last one, with chief executive, Derrick Anderson, council leader, Cllr Lib Peck, Cllr Pete Robbins and Rachel Sharpe. LUHC were joined once again by the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, our social housing expert who has worked across various organisations including the Co-operative Development Society, but also by a representative from The Clapham Society and a local housing co-operative who had previously tried to bid to manage ‘shortlife’ housing co-ops. We were finally able to follow up on the proposal set out on November 15th 2012…however…

…the correspondence below shows that Lambeth were not prepared to realistically entertain a viable social housing solution, and it also shows how they tried to justify this decision with a number of unsubstantiated assertions about the effect of our eviction on the housing waiting list. We have had no reply to the most recent emails.

2 August 2013

Dear Julian,

Housing Co-op proposals
Following our meeting with you and you colleagues on 17th July and attended by Councillors Peck and Robbins and Derrick Anderson, I write to update you as agreed.

We have carefully considered the points raised at the meeting and have both revisited the scheme proposal submitted by [Housing Co-op] in 2011 and the request to suspend the legal action associated with the recall of the former short life properties.
Evaluation of the [Housing Co-op] proposal

[Housing Co-op] originally submitted their proposal to Lambeth in July 2011. At that time [Housing Co-op] put forward a bid to acquire 25 former short life properties and selected a mixture of houses, and houses converted into flats. Inspecting this list today it is clear that most of these have now been sold at auction. In addition 2 of the addresses proposed by [Housing Co-op] do not feature at all on the current list of former short life properties. It may have been the case that in selecting these in 2011 [Housing Co-op] had mistakenly included mainstream Lambeth housing units or had made assumptions about the units concerned, or, possibly, the addresses had already been sold when their proposal was presented to Lambeth.

In 2011 [Housing Co-op] offered Lambeth £Xm for the freehold of the 25 units: an average receipt of £X 000 each. Following acquisition of the 25 units [Housing Co-op] planned to sell 7 of the properties via auction and to use the income from this, together with a loan raised against their own stock, to fund the refurbishment of the remaining 18 properties.

The [Housing Co-op] proposal was rejected in 2011 as it offered significantly worse value for money for Lambeth when compared to a bid from Notting Hill Housing Group (which the authority accepted).

If the same [Housing Co-op] proposal were looked at again today a completely different set of addresses would need to be assembled. This is because almost all the 25 units originally specified have been sold. Based on current values the same offer would result in the council receiving approximately 24% of the open market price for the properties – a loss of nearly £10m.

However, as discussed we have considered on what basis such a scheme could be looked at again. We could consider a similar proposal with a discount to reflect the fact that the properties are occupied. This would mean a discount in the region of 30% rather than the 60-70% in the original bid. This would require identification of a similar number of properties of those still occupied by ex-shortlife residents who wished to be part of a co-op. These occupants would need to be verified and in properties that meet the Council’s bedsize and housing need criteria. In recognition of the discount the Council would require 100% nomination rights in perpetuity to any future voids. Any sales required to help fund the scheme would need to be agreed with the Council.

Legal action
Clearly any agreement on the lines set out above would be contingent on both the Council and occupants involved agreeing to cease legal action, but the Council is not in a position to agree to suspend current action without an agreed scheme. This is because we have no certainty that we can reach agreement and the legal action is well advanced and may be jeopardised by any suspension, particularly when there are still a number of cases all of which need to be dealt with in a consistent and even handed way.

The issue of the Council’s legal costs in obtaining vacant possession of former short life properties was raised at the meeting, but given these amount to less than 2% of the receipts raised, this is not a major factor.

The issue of the cost to the Council of rehousing occupants was also raised and it is difficult to quantify these costs because there are a number of different factors that arise in each individual rehousing case – the household requirements, the supply of lettings, the time taken and number of bids etc. However most of the households (approximately 65%) need studio or 1 bed properties, for which there is a relatively good supply and the small numbers of households now remaining in former short life properties – 67, means that the rehousing process has little impact on the total numbers of those seeking housing through the Council.

In conclusion, I think the comments above demonstrate that we have considered what we can justify in terms of value of money.
Yours sincerely,

Rachel Sharpe
Commissioning Director
CC: Councillor Lib Peck
Councillor Pete Robbins
Derrick Anderson

From:Julian Hall Sent: 08 August 2013 14:05?To: Sharpe,Rachel?Subject: Super Co-op plan for ‘shortlife’

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for your letter of August 2nd.

I find it odd that you have deconstructed the original [housing co-op] deal in the way that you have. Whether certain houses in the original deal have been sold or not, or whether ones were incorrectly identified as ‘shortlife’, seems neither here nor there. Inevitably, over two years on and with sales ongoing, things have changed.

The previous deal was to be looked at as a basis for a viable new deal.  You know that a 70% of market rate deal is not going to attract an RSL for the most part. You reference Notting Hill Housing Group, but the larger deal with NHHG fell through before the end of 2011, meanwhile you have still not clarified what deal they did actually enter into with Lambeth, and how many houses it affected etc.

Despite a difference of opinion of the handling of Ruchcroft Road, Lambeth has, at least, recognised the importance of retaining social housing in Brixton.  You have allocated £3,000,000 to refurbish 24 units along Rushcroft Road, but somehow you do not seem to see any value in retaining mixed communities elsewhere, including Clapham Town?

I can tell you that, after having now met with them, Build-it would be extremely keen to assist in the furtherance of a social housing scheme, so please do bear this in mind.

Regarding the savings that we identified for the borough, you haven’t taken into account the long-term costs that would be incurred by Lambeth and I have enclosed a table illustrating this.

In terms of the waiting list scenario that you set out, you seem to be implying that you do not have anyone in need of studio or 1 bed properties.  I am sure this cannot be the case with a waiting list over 20 000 people, some of whom will now be forced to downsize because of the bedroom tax.

I hope, given the above, that you will revise your offer accordingly.


On 21 Aug 2013, at 19:20, “Sharpe,Rachel” wrote:

Dear Julian,

Thank you for your email of 8th August.

On the [Housing Co-op] bid, we were attempting to explain how the proposed scheme was evaluated and how such a proposal would need to be constructed to make it a viable proposition from the Council’s perspective.

In terms of the arrangements with Notting Hill Housing Group, a number of properties [note: 5 it transpired after an FOI answered on 081013] were sold to them as agreed at a similar discount, where the discount requested was greater than was considered value for money for the Council, the properties were disposed of at auction in the usual way. On Rushcroft Road I would point out that the expenditure required for refurbishing three blocks is made possible by the generation of receipts not least from disposing of other blocks.

I note your comments about the savings you say you have identified (£8.463m)
*1 if your proposals were to proceed. It is not clear, however, if your calculations refer either to the cost to Lambeth of re-housing the remaining short life occupants after they have spent a period in temporary accommodation, or, the cost to Lambeth of keeping other non-short life households in temporary accommodation whilst the former course of action is carried out, or, possibly, if it is a combination of the two. Whichever is the case, we would not anticipate former shortlife occupants spending any periods in temporary accommodation or B&B and this has not been the case to date.

*2 Without wishing to enter into protracted correspondence it is important to have a realistic perspective on this matter. In 2011-2012 Lambeth housed 1981 households from all sources. Many of these (55%, a majority) required large family units which are in short supply. In contrast to this Lambeth re-housing all the remaining 59 former short life  households would need mainly studio flat or 1 bedroom units (of which we have between 800 and 900 available each year) and would represent, at best, only 3% of our overall annual lettings activity.

On this basis we are not inclined to accept your figures as it is clear from our experience that re-housing a small group such as the remaining former short life occupants would not result in Lambeth incurring either direct or indirect costs and would not be managerially difficult.

Our position remains, therefore, as set out to you in my letter of August 8th.

Yours sincerely,
Rachel Sharpe
Commissioning Director
London Borough of Lambeth

On 27 Aug 2013, at 15:22, “Julian Hall” wrote:

Dear Rachel,

You may not wish to enter into a protracted correspondence, but some ‘shortlife’ residents have been in their homes since the mid 1970s and are now well into their pensionable years.  Therefore, I think they deserve a thorough investigation into the possibility of leaving them in situ.

Not only have a number of ‘shortlifers’ been resident for a period of time greater than the age of some of those enforcing ‘recall’, a median estimate suggests that ‘shortlife recall’ stands to claim 6 800 years of residency in the borough.

*3 As regards displacement, it is the latter scenario that we have indicated, and therefore we are talking about non-‘shortlife’ residents being pushed into emergency accommodation.  Without an actual breakdown for the displacement flow since ‘recall’ began, I cannot simply take your word that ‘recall’ has not had an effect.  I know of ‘shortlife’ families who would have required 2 bed homes when they moved and others who will require 2 beds if they move, this means that there has been, and will be, an effect on the 2 bed section of the waiting list.

*4 I would urge you once again to show more flexibility than the position set out in your letter of August 8th.  I am aware that other local authorities have shown a greater flexibility on this issue.  It came as something of a surprise*5 to me that one of these authorities was Hackney – they came to an arrangement with some of their ‘shortlife’ residents that left them in situ.

When I mentioned the situation to Ed Miliband last week, after a chance meeting with him, I think it would be fair to say he was somewhat surprised, a response common to many outside observers.


Julian Hall

Subject: Re: Super Co-op plan for ‘shortlife’?Date: Sat, 31 Aug 2013 17:12:48 +0100?To:

Dear Rachel,

As an addendum to my email to you of 27 August (see below), I should like to submit the following information that was gleaned by means of an FOI on one-bed council properties.  This information would seem to support our argument about the demand for all types of properties on the waiting list and the displacement effect that ‘shortlife recall’ will compound.

FOI request to Lambeth on housing and bedroom tax:?1. as at 22 July 2013 there are currently 13 one-bedroom properties ready for letting.?2. 1,661 tenants are under-occupying and need 1 bedroom flat?3. 10,827 tenants are on waiting list for 1 bedroom flat


Please note:
As regards the first letter, I have had to protect information that is commercially sensitive to the established housing co-op who supported us, but am happy to answer any questions that may arise.

We found out on 02/10/13 – via an FOI request – that Lambeth Council spends £1m a year on emergency accommodation.

*1 up to £13m by our calculations. We worked out the possible costs to Lambeth of putting people into emergency accommodation because we have displaced them on the housing waiting list – a chart can be provided.
*2 untrue, former ‘shortlifers’ have spent time in temporary accommodation.
*3 based on the amount of ‘shortlife’ in 2011, a median average of 170 homes x 2 occupants x 20 years occupancy, in 1997 there were 1200 homes and many of the occupants would have been in situ for nearly 20 years at this point.
*4 there are other families who will require 3 bed houses.
*5 My surprise that Hackney was one of the London boroughs who have left ‘shortlifers’ in situ arises because many of the officers who are now trying to evict us have worked at Hackney Council and were involved in similar community purges.

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