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Bexley must take 'quantum leap' to build more homes, says housing minister

PUBLISHED: 07:00 21 January 2019

Housing minister Kit Malthouse with council leader Teresa O'Neill. Photo: John Bayliss

Housing minister Kit Malthouse with council leader Teresa O'Neill. Photo: John Bayliss

Archant

A top MP has said areas like Bexley must “take a quantum leap” to help deliver the homes needed to plug the country’s housing crisis.

Kit Malthouse spoke exclusively to the local democracy reporting service about how Bexley can play a vital role by building 31,000 homes by 2050.

The council’s ambitious growth strategy, formally signed off last year, outlines major regeneration, primarily across the north of the borough.

The housing minister visited on Wednesday, January 16, to see what more can be done to help the borough make a “leap forward” for housing.

Mr Malthouse said: “We are now at the stage where opportunity areas such as Bexley need to take a big leap forward to get towards the national target of 300,000 houses a year. I’m speaking to civic leaders about what is needed to make that quantum leap.”

The growth strategy, which is supported by both sides of the council, outlines major areas for development and regeneration through housing, shops and transport improvements.

Erith, Slade Green and Thamesmead all feature heavily in plans, which the council wants to be supported by extending Crossrail through the borough to Ebbsfleet.

Asked about how the borough can support the planned 31,000 homes and 17,000 jobs, the housing minister said: “The first thing is to make sure all these people can get around. The connection between housing and transport is integral.

“We have given a lot of money to City Hall for infrastructure, and a couple of hundred million into the DLR which has opened up the possibility of 1,800 new homes.

“We need to understand what is needed in terms of transport in Bexley – be that Crossrail through to Ebbsfleet or whatever it might be –  we need to talk about those issues.”

Bexley placed almost 1,400 households in temporary accommodation last year, with the charity Shelter estimating there were 2,000 homeless children in the borough.

“Affordable homes” have often been criticised for still being out of reach for first-time buyers, and last year the council said a spike in homelessness was down to a lack of affordable social rents.

“Building 30,000 homes – maybe even more if we get transport right – is a critical way to help with affordability,” the MP said.

“We build more houses, they become more affordable. It’s a supply and demand equation.”
With the scale of regeneration proposed, the minister said it was no surprise that long-standing residents may resent major changes to their towns.

“It’s critical we get the design of houses right. The objections are often that it doesn’t fit in and that it doesn’t come with the right infrastructure – doctors, schools – the growing pains that come with developments”, Mr Malthouse said.

“You need  to get the design right so people are proud of what is being built – so it looks like this part of London.

“It needs to be recognised that the next generation deserve homes. When people need encouragement about embracing new houses, you just have to talk to people in their 20s about the housing market.

“If you’re a parent you have to ask yourself why is my child still living at home in their 30s. These intergenerational questions have to be answered, and Bexley are part of the answer.

“There are a lot of legacy estates such as Thamesmead that need improvement and that can be modified to create new homes. There is also quite a lot of land that houses can just be built – spare land.

“Everybody talks about west London being one of the biggest ‘growing areas’ in Europe – I actually think south-east London can be the same.”

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