How we are helping deliver the homes Waltham Forest needs

A row of terraced houses on  a sunny day
Published: 28 May 2024
Filed under: Regeneration and Housing

We are in the midst of a national housing crisis, with London at the epicentre. Since the 1980s, councils have been required to sell off their housing stock through Right to Buy but Treasury rules mean that have been unable to replace the lost homes at the same rate. The repercussions facing councils today include:  

  • A significant reduction in council housing, contributing to a rise in homelessness. 
  • An increasing reliance on expensive temporary / emergency accommodation as their own housing stock reduces year on year.  
  • Ever increasing budget pressures as demand far outstrips supply.  

Since 2011, house prices in Waltham Forest have increased at the fastest rate in the capital, making home ownership unaffordable for an increasing number of households. This has pushed more people into the private rental sector, which is increasingly competitive, expensive, and insecure. Many residents with a roof over their head still live in unsuitable properties– their health, wellbeing, and life chances are adversely affected by their living conditions.  

An aerial image of St James Street and Jazz Yard in Walthamstow

Tackling the crisis head on with Mission Waltham Forest

Waltham Forest Council is facing the challenge, and through Mission Waltham Forest we aim to “tackle the housing crisis head on. We are developing a local response to the national housing crisis - but we must be realistic. We cannot solve it alone. In response to growing demand, in the last decade, we have built over 9,000 homes, 2,916 of which are affordable. Since 2011, the borough has met 93% of its average housing target, which is higher than the London average of 88%. We have built the widest range of homes anywhere in London since 2011, with 35% at either intermediate or social rent. Over 1,500 households that were formerly on the Housing Register now have an affordable home.  

However, despite Waltham Forest’s excellent record of building affordable homes, too many residents still live in temporary or substandard accommodation. Since the Homelessness Reduction Act in 2018, the average number of households approaching Waltham Forest Council for housing advice and assistance each year has been 2,635. Despite the demand for homelessness services, the use of temporary accommodation has reduced dramatically over the last five years from 2,235 in March 2018 to 878 in March 2023. However, current supply and demand pressures are now threatening this record, with over 1,200 households currently living in temporary accommodation. We try to give as many residents that turn to us a permanent home as we know temporary accommodation doesn't give residents the secure housing they and their families need or deserve.  

Wide shot of Waltham Forest from Highams Park

Our delivery plans

Over the next five years, our new delivery plans will seek to address these challenges and build on the recommendations of our Affordable Housing Commission. Our key priorities are outlined below:  

  1. Homelessness and rough sleeping are prevented so that they become rare, brief and non-recurrent. 
    1. Early intervention and support are improved. 
    2. Residents who are homeless or threatened with homelessness are empowered to make decisions which are right for them. 
    3. Residents in temporary accommodation are supported into long-term homes. 
  2. Residents can access homes that meet their needs as their circumstances change. 
    1. Increasing the supply of different types of homes so that residents can stay in Waltham Forest throughout their lives. 
    2. New development provides homes for residents who need them most. 
    3. Renting is an attractive and secure long-term option. 
    4. There are good homes for older people with specialist needs. 
  3. Every home in the borough is healthy, safe and affordable to heat. 
    1. An excellent housing service with high resident satisfaction. 
    2. Health conditions relating to poor quality homes are reduced. 
    3. Housing in Waltham Forest is warm and helps the borough to reach net zero by 2030. 
  4. Development enhances neighbourhoods and supports stronger, fairer and safer communities. 
    1. Development supports thriving and more resilient communities. 
    2. Communities are proud of where they live and feel safe. 

The council is not the only organisation responsible for addressing the housing crisis in the borough. We will work closely with public, private, and civil society partners who share our vision for change. Our new Housing Compact outlines how we will work with over 30 Housing Associations that together provide over 17,500 homes for Waltham Forest residents, with a significant proportion of these homes being affordable. 

The cost of fixing this is high, but the cost to creating stable homes where residents can thrive in is immeasurable

Councillor Ahsan Khan, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, said: 

    “For decades, the UK simply hasn’t built enough homes. Population growth and a lack of housebuilding have led to soaring house prices in the whole of London, including Waltham Forest. If we don’t build enough homes in the borough, our young people will never be able to purchase their own place and we will never deliver enough affordable housing to meet the needs of the 8,000 people on our housing register. Whilst we need to be ambitious, there are no quick fixes to the challenges we are facing, and it may take many years to achieve. The cost of fixing this is high, but the cost to creating stable homes where residents can thrive in is immeasurable. The government needs to act, local authorities cannot solve this on its own."

Listening to our residents, making tenant satisfaction a top priority

Cllr Khan continued: 

    “We would like to be the best landlord in London. For us this means listening to our residents, making tenant satisfaction a top priority, and ensuring repairs and improvements undertaken by our contractors are carried out to a high standard. Our tenants’ satisfaction has risen, but there is room for improvement in terms of residents feeling treated with respect, and repair satisfaction levels."

We are proud to work with residents and partners on these plans

In closing Cllr Khan said: 

    “Finally, we are proud to work with residents and partners on these plans, and grateful for their time and participation. They shared their experience of housing in Waltham Forest, offering their thoughts on priorities, and on how we can achieve better housing for all. Ultimately this is about helping us develop a practical set of steps we can take to increase local housing supply, reduce homelessness, and give local people reassurance that they can afford to live in their borough, close to their friends, families and support networks. These are the building blocks of a thriving local economy and connected community.” 

How are we going to achieve our plans