Defend council homes
The council’s Cabinet approved the implementation of the Defend Council Homes policy (pdf 208KB) on 4 January 2021.
Watch the moment the decision was taken on YouTube: Cabinet 4 January 2021.
The Defend Council Homes policy was co-produced with council housing residents and independent legal, policy and housing experts. Read the policy summary (pdf 133KB) used as part of the consultation.
The decision was taken by Cabinet after a borough-wide consultation between 1 September and 2 October 2020 with all council housing households. We had an incredible response of over 1,000 online and postal surveys returned, with an overwhelming level of support for the policy. Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond. Here’s a copy of the consultation report (pdf 333KB).
An important safeguard
The Defend Council Homes policy gives council housing residents in Hammersmith & Fulham greater protection over the future of their homes and ensures residents will be fully involved in any proposals to redevelop council homes or the land around them. It follows the guidance that is currently set out in the Mayor's Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration: Better Homes for Local People (london.gov.uk, pdf, 630KB).
You can find further detail on the policy in our consultation FAQs, and two more in-depth videos below.
Video: Why do residents need the DCH policy?
H&F resident Kevin Nathaniel interviews Shirley Cupit, also an H&F resident and Chair of the Defend Council Homes Unit.
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- Transcript for: Why do residents need the DCH policy?
Kevin: Hello I'm Kevin Nathaniel and I'm a Hammersmith & Fulham Council resident.
I've been living in the White City area for about 10 years and I now have a beautiful young family.
I'm here with Shirley Cupit who's also a resident. Now Shirley, you are the chair of the Defend Council Homes Unit which has been working with the council to develop the Defend Council Homes policy.
Shirley: Yes. Hi Kevin, that's right.
Kevin: So why should we defend council homes?
Shirley: Because residents love them and we know that from surveys and we know that ourselves from living here. But also because these kinds of homes are essential if people are going to be able to afford to live in places like Hammersmith & Fulham in the future.
Kevin: It is essential and it is really important for future generations.
What do we need to defend it from?
Shirley: Not everyone has residents' best interests at heart. Greedy developers for instance, who might want to buy up council land to build luxury apartments. If there's going to be any redevelopment, then it mustn't result in a
loss of affordable housing. And it's important that residents' interests are protected from day one. That's why we need a policy that has teeth.
Kevin: Would you explain how the Defend Council Homes policy works?
Shirley: Yes, well what it says, is that if there's a proposal to redevelop any part of the council's housing, then the council must involve the residents who live there right from the start. And not only that, but the council has to meet the highest possible standards for working with residents.
Kevin: So nothing can happen to our homes without us as residents having a say?
Shirley: Yeah exactly.
Video: When would the DCH policy come into effect and how would it work?
A narrated video by Peter Bevington, member of the Defend Council Homes Unit.
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- Transcript for: When would the DCH policy come into effect and how would it work?
In this short video, I'd like to tell you about the circumstances in which the defend council homes policy would come into effect and how it would work.
The policy would come into effect whenever there is a redevelopment proposal significantly affecting council homes. For example, if it would involve the demolition of council homes or the loss of a green space or a facility that directly benefits council homes.
Redevelopment proposals could include things like:
- building new affordable housing on existing estates
- replacing homes that are outdated or no longer meet a need
- tackling health and safety issues or structural issues
- making way for road or rail schemes
- or the large scale redevelopment of an area
So for example, say there are some poorly designed homes that are very unpopular and have become difficult to let. The council proposes to demolish them and build new affordable homes to modern standards. This is the kind of proposal that would trigger the policy.
Or imagine that building safety checks were to reveal structural problems in a block of flats and structural repairs turn out to be complicated expensive and highly disruptive for residents. It might be a better solution for both the council and the residents to demolish the block and provide new homes. Again this kind of proposal will trigger the policy.
So how would the policy work in practice?
Well, the policy deals with redevelopment in three stages. First, the proposal stage, then when it becomes a scheme, and finally when it is carried out as a programme.
As soon as there is a firm proposal, the council has to notify all the residents affected. The council has to tell them:
- what the proposal is
- how decisions will be made about whether the proposal goes ahead
- what the timetable is and how they can get involved
The council also has to set up a local resident steering group and work with them to ensure that it is meeting the highest standards of good practice.
If it's decided that the proposal should become a definite redevelopment scheme, the council must consult the residents to gauge their support for the scheme.
If the scheme goes ahead the council must work with the resident steering group to plan how the redevelopment will be carried out and how to keep residents informed. Once there's a detailed plan and timetable the scheme becomes a redevelopment programme.
Before work starts the council has to notify all the residents affected, giving them full details of what will happen during the programme.
The council must tell residents what they can expect in terms of things like:
- programme of work phasing and levels of disruption
- communications and resident involvement
- health and safety arrangements and site security
- temporary or permanent re-housing and compensation
- and how to raise concerns and or complain
Throughout the whole process, which in some cases could take years, the policy requires the council to meet the highest standards of good practice and honor its promises to residents.
In summary, the policy:
- would apply whenever there is a redevelopment proposal significantly affecting council homes
- it commits the council to informing and involving residents throughout the entire process
- and it commits the council to the highest standards of good practice
Video: What's to stop the council from ignoring or forgetting the DCH policy in the future?
A narrated video by Anthony Mason, member of the Defend Council Homes Unit.
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- Transcript for: What's to stop the council from ignoring or forgetting the DCH policy in the future?
In this video, I want to explain why the council can't ignore or forget about the policy in the future.
As this slide shows, there are three main safeguards for residents.
[Text on slides reads the following]
- a legitimate expectation that the council will follow the policy
- restrictions on the council's title to its housing land
- compliance appeals
We refer to these as the triple lock on the policy. I'll say more about each of the locks in the next few slides.
The first lock is called legitimate expectation. Public bodies have to keep commitments they make in policies like this one. So once the council has made legally binding commitments to residents in the policy, residents can expect that the council will meet those promises.
If in the future the council doesn't comply, residents can challenge it in the courts and they may get legal aid to help do this.
The second lock is called 'restriction on title'. The Land Registry is a government agency that keeps a register of the ownership or title of land and property in England. A restriction on title, is an entry on that register that restricts the sale or transfer of the land or property. Think of the registry as being a big library of land ownership across the country.
The policy requires that the council will register a restriction on its title for all housing land that it holds outright. The land registry will need a certificate from the council confirming that the policy has been complied with, before any homes or housing land can be sold for example, to developers.
The third lock is an appeal mechanism built-in for residents where they think either the council hasn't triggered the policy when it should have done or hasn't fully complied with the policy.
If residents aren't happy with the council's first response, they'll be able to make a compliance referral to the council's monitoring officer. This is a post defined by law within the council whose job it is among other things to report when the council is in danger of acting illegally. The monitoring officer will have to consider appeals and warn the council if it's in danger of not complying with its obligations under the policy.
Together these measures give residents real comfort that in the future the council will do what the policy requires. If the council wants to change the policy, it can only do so after full consultation with residents.
Monitoring the way the council is applying the policy
A newly formed resident-led Defend Council Homes policy sub-group has been formed to collaborate with officers and monitor the implementation of the policy. The group reports to the housing representatives' forum, the central body for involvement activities, to develop a plan for implementing and monitoring the policy going forward.
We want to keep this policy fresh in your minds and would encourage you to tell your neighbours about the council’s decision to adopt the policy. If you’re reading this and are part of a tenants' and residents' association, please do feel free to share this article in your next e-newsletter.
Support for resident steering groups
We will make every effort to support the establishment of a residents’ steering group for each redevelopment proposal.
The composition, terms of reference and working practices of a residents’ steering group will be determined by considering local needs, circumstances and preferences. As a guiding principle, the members of a residents’ steering group will have the best interests of all residents affected by the redevelopment proposal, and to the council’s compliance with good practice.
We will ensure that each residents’ steering group is adequately trained and resourced to carry out its role at all times. Guidance for residents’ steering groups (pdf 1.79MB) has been co-produced with the Defend Council Homes policy sub-group.
If you’ve got any more questions, or want to share your thoughts, please call 020 8753 6652 or email GetInvolved@lbhf.gov.uk