How we can build better housing in Enfield

Redevelopment at Alma Estate in Ponders End
Hundreds of new homes are replacing post-war council tower blocks on Alma Estate in Ponders End, but there will be a net loss of affordable housing and most of the new homes are small flats for private sale

Matt Burn from campaign group Better Homes for Enfield introduces the group’s new research into the borough’s housing needs

Our new report, Needs Not Numbers, asks two important questions; are there enough new homes being built in Enfield, and are they the type of homes Enfield needs?

To answer these questions, we reviewed 36 recent major planning applications. Our analysis showed that there are well over 11,000 new homes in Enfield’s housing pipeline. Not all of these will come to fruition, but nevertheless it appears that the borough is well placed to meet its target of 12,460 additional new homes over the next ten years.

However, our research also showed that the majority of the new homes planned will be one or two bedroom flats, and that there will not be enough family-sized homes. The council’s planning policies stipulate that 60% of new homes built in Enfield should have three or more bedrooms, yet only 25% of the new homes will meet this criterion. Over the next ten years the number of new family homes built will be almost 5,000 short of what’s needed.

Our research also showed that affordable housing targets are being routinely missed. Less than one in four housing developments will deliver the amount of social rent housing required by planning policies. This will lead to a shortfall of at least 1,500 social rent homes over the coming years. This is particularly troubling as there is already a shortage of social rent housing in Enfield.

A lack of family-sized housing will have serious and lasting consequences. For example, there are already over 13,000 households in Enfield classified as overcrowded – around three times higher than the UK average. Families living in overcrowded homes say their living conditions affect their mental health, privacy and sleep quality, and research shows an increased risk of infectious diseases and respiratory problems. Recent experiences of Covid-19 and summer heatwaves have bought into sharp focus the importance of having enough indoor and outdoor space. So, what needs to be done?

Firstly, land suitable for large-scale homebuilding is relatively scarce, so developers need to be more creative in the way they approach high-density housing schemes, in order to make the most of the developable land available, for example by including more apartments with three or more bedrooms and ensuring homes have gardens or easy access to high-quality green spaces. There are plenty of examples of where this has been successfully achieved, from the Victorian mansion blocks in London, to the apartments of Hammarby in Stockholm.

Secondly, it’s important to be realistic. Private developers are unlikely to build enough affordable social rent homes, so council regeneration schemes on public land (such as Meridian Water or the Joyce and Snells Estate redevelopments) need to significantly increase the number of social rent homes built to make up the shortfall.

Lastly, planning applications for major developments should be assessed and approved according to the types of homes Enfield needs. This means that information provided to councillors – especially those on the planning committee – as well as developers and residents, needs to be accessible, clear, consistently reported and up to date. Without this information there is a real risk, as we have seen, that the thousands of new homes being built in Enfield over the coming years will not be the size and quality the borough needs.

Read the Needs Not Numbers report in full on the Better Homes for Enfield website:
Visit betterhomes-enfield.org