‘We are trying to go as fast as we can’: Westminster housebuilding chief talks waiting lists and ‘infill regeneration’

Cllr Rachael Robathan of Westminster Council. Picture: Westminster Council

Cllr Rachael Robathan of Westminster Council. Picture: Westminster Council - Credit: Archant

“All we can do is work as hard as we can. We have to build more homes.”

Westminster Council is, according to regeneration chief Cllr Rachael Robathan (Con), working hard to put a dent in housing waiting lists in the borough.

As she explained the town hall’s plans, which rest on a combination of large-scale schemes and maximising the use of disused space, she said keeping communities together and building a wide range of new homes was essential.

She also moved to reassure residents worried about disruption, and said she hoped bringing CityWest Homes back in house would increase trust in the borough’s housing service.

Speaking to the Wood&Vale, she admitted: “We have got huge demand here and we are trying to go as fast as we can.

“We looked at our housing stock and were thinking – ‘look, we can do more there’.”

This involves building homes on disused garages and waste land within Westminster’s estates. The first 10 homes have been completed, with more to come – including in Wellington Road, St John’s Wood, and Lanark Road, Maida Vale.

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So far, the homes completed and those announced have all featured three-bedroom flats for social rent, but this will not necessarily be the case as building continues.

Cllr Robathan accepts even the 200 homes planned from the infill projects by 2023 won’t solve the housing problems the borough faces. But she thinks, combined with the bigger schemes including the Church Street regeneration which could see more than 1,000 new homes, they will at least help meet the council’s target of 1,850 new “genuinely affordable homes” by 2023.

She said the town hall saw this to mean at social rent and “intermediate rent” levels (aimed at households earning £30,000 a year).

Plans for Church Street are currently out for consultation, with the council coming in for criticism for the proportion of affordable homes set to be built there – half the 1,600 homes mooted in the consultation are described as “market value”.

As for shutting much-maligned housing operator CityWest Homes, Cllr Robathan was unequivocal. “CityWest was not doing what it should have been,” she said. “If the housing provider loses people’s trust, it’s difficult to win that back.”