This is something of a formative moment in the history of Brockley Central - an article written by someone with a working knowledge of their subject.
Thanks goes to Kate, who writes one of the area's most entertaining blogs by night and is a proper, salaried journalist by day.
Social housing is a subject with less instant appeal than takeaway pizza, but is important to the future of Brockley nonetheless. This deal with Lewisham Council is one that has been covered by other bloggers, but Kate's article provides a detailed explanation of what's going on.
Lewisham Council has signed a £296 million deal to do up nearly 2,000 council-owned homes in Brockley.
A group of private sector companies is going to refurbish the council’s housing estates and street properties, including homes owned by leaseholders.
The deal uses the Private Finance Initiative, a controversial way of funding major public sector building projects.
PFI works by using private companies’ cash to build public sector facilities. A consortium of private companies uses their financial assets to create or refurbish a public sector project, and then maintain it over the long term – usually PFI contracts last for 30 years. But the public authority, for example a council, then has to pay back that investment over the long term.
The commissioning authority sets performance targets which the consortium must meet in order to receive its full monthly payments. At the end of the contract, the buildings belong to the public authority involved.
In the case of the Brockley refurbishment, the contract will last 20 years and the consortium is called B3.
The lead company is Regenter. Construction company Higgins and management company Pinnacle are also involved, and it’s funded by Japanese bank Sumitomo Mitsui.
It’s taken four years for the deal to get off the starting blocks, which isn’t unusual in PFI. Deals are often held up for years because of contractual wrangling between the commissioning public body and members of the consortium.
B3 has already taken over day to day management of properties on a small scale, and full services will begin in September. The homes will be bought up to the government’s decent homes standard within the next three and a half years; this will include the installation of new kitchens and bathrooms where necessary.
B3 will also be responsible for housing allocations, neighbour disputes, rent arrears, and caretaking on estates. It will work out of a new housing office on Mantle Road where tenants can pay their rent, report repairs and discuss the programme of works.
The consortium will be contacting tenants to let them know about the refurbishment schedule. Leaseholders will be asked to contribute to the cost of the works, but their maximum contributions will be capped. The consortium will notify leaseholders in advance about any proposed works.
The council will retain its ownership of the properties and so tenants’ rights, including the right to buy their property, won’t be affected.
NB. This has already been covered by the Green Ladywell blog:
And here’s a PDF that the council has sent to tenants: