26 September 2001
The Church Commissioners announce:
-A spirit of partnership in the management of the estates, including regular meetings with tenants
-Those who have resided four or more years can apply for enhanced security of tenure
-No variation of terms or security for all present tenants
-Affordable housing at below market rents to continue on all estates
-Extensive programme of improvement and refurbishment to be put in hand
-Increased income for the Church's work in areas of need and opportunity through introduction of full market rents for a proportion of new tenants on some estates
Existing tenants of the Church Commissioners'residential properties in London, the Octavia Hill Estates, will continue to be protected on their current terms under a new letting policy announced today, Wednesday, 26 September, 2001. Residents on assured shorthold tenancies will be able to apply to upgrade to assured tenancies after four years' residence, while, for future tenants only, the Commissioners will move to a mix of affordable rents and market rents on the estates.
The new policy will generate extra income to support the Church of England's ministry and mission in local communities throughout the country, in line with the Church
Commissioners' aims and legal duty.
"The Assets Committee has listened to all the views put forward since the extensive local consultations on the future of the estates were launched in March," said the Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby, Bishop of Worcester and a member of the Assets Committee. "We are grateful for the time and effort that residents and their representatives have put into the consultation, and for the constructive suggestions which they have made. Throughout, the Assets Committee have sought to find the best balance between their responsibility to generate income from their assets for the work of the Church in areas of need and pportunity nationally with a proper regard for the mission of the Church in the areas where the estates are located ."
* The mixture of open market rents and affordable rents will vary from estate to estate, depending on legal provisions, but there will be a proportion of affordable housing retained on all estates - 100% on some. On the Walworth estate, one in five of new tenancies will be at 'affordable' rent, and the final proportion of affordable tenancies on that estate will be reviewed as tenancies change.
* The Commissioners' affordable rental properties are intended for those in housing need in public and community service occupations.
* Existing assured shorthold tenants will be able to apply for more secure assured tenancies after four years in residence (subject to satisfying the terms of their tenancies). This is a direct response to the concern expressed in the consultation for stability in the estate communities.
* The Commissioners are committed to continuing to work in the spirit of partnership with the local community and to maintaining a high standard of management of the estates. The Commissioners' professional housing management team will continue day to day management of the estates and there will be regular meetings with tenants' representatives to monitor the new policy.
* An extensive programme of works to the estates will begin after further, detailed, local consultation. These works will enhance the estates and their environment for present and future generations. Work will include upgrades to stairways, glazing improvements, grassed courtyards, privacy and security.
The 'Octavia Hill Estates'are in Vauxhall, Walworth, Waterloo, and North London. They comprise investment properties let at affordable rents, and do not therefore form part of the social housing sector. The 1,590 units (houses, flats and maisonettes) are at present let on a combination of protected fair rents and assured shorthold tenancies below market levels.
The introduction of new, market level, tenancies will be slow. The estates are popular, and vacancies are rare.
Octavia Hill, the well-known 19th century housing reformer, was invited by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in the 1880s to manage their inner London rented housing estates in accordance with the progressive principles which she had pioneered. These included professional management in return for an economic rent. A woman of great vision and energy, she was also one of the co-founders of the National Trust. Octavia Hill is commemorated in the Church's Common Worship Calendar on 13 August.