Holloway Prison site homes in affordable rent boost

Campaigners have been calling for affordable homes at the former prison site

TOWN Hall chiefs are celebrating after it was announced that the developer behind the overhaul of the former Holloway Prison site will provide 42 per cent of new homes at the cheapest “social rent” level.

Community groups, however, have struck a more cautious note, insisting that rather than being a “boost”, housing association Peabody is simply abiding by the original commitments it made for the scheme.

The Mayor of London’s office this week revealed it had secured a new deal with Peabody by using grant funding for the former women’s prison site which means almost half of the new properties will be made more affordable.

Campaigners were previously left furious when a spokeswoman for Peabody – which aims to build around 1,000 new homes on the Parkhurst Road land – appeared to suggest they were backtracking on the social rent commitment.

The prison was closed in 2016, and sold last year

Peabody has promised that 60 per cent of homes will be “genuinely affordable”, but had indicated at a meeting with activist groups last month that only 35 per cent of these units would be let at the cheapest “social rents”, which are equivalent to council property rates.

This meant the other 25 per cent of “genuinely affordable” homes would be one of the more expensive “products” such as “shared ownership”, aimed at first-time buyers, or “London Living Rent”, aimed at middle-income households.

Marj Mayo, a director of the Community Plan for Holloway (CPFH) group, said: “We are glad to hear the suggested reduction in social housing has not materialised, but note that 42 per cent is not a boost, just the original percentage announced when Peabody bought public land using loans and grants of public money.”

Peabody bought the notorious jail, which closed in 2016, from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) last year for a reported £81.5million.

At the time the housing association received a £42m loan as well as a £39.8m grant from the Mayor of London’s office. It is now understood that Peabody is set to be given more grant funding to ensure that 42 per cent of homes on the site are let at social rents.

The precise level provided by City Hall will be subject to final design and planning approval, as this will determine the final number of homes.

Islington Council housing chief, Diarmaid Ward, said: “This is great news. There are so many families in our borough in desperate need of a decent secure home.

“I want to thank all of the local residents and community groups who campaigned tirelessly. There is no justice without housing justice.”

Town Hall leader Richard Watts said: “We applaud the Mayor’s commitment to tackling London’s housing crisis and welcome the additional funding.”

Dick Mortimer, executive director for development at Peabody, said: “Peabody bought the Holloway Prison site with a clear commitment to provide as many affordable homes as possible.

“This reflects our social purpose and we’re delighted to be able to propose a development that will deliver nearly 1,000 new homes and 42 per cent social rent with the ongoing support of the Mayor. The planning application is still to be submitted but we believe our scheme will result in a high-quality development that everyone can support.

“In addition we will be delivering a ‘Women’s Building’ that recognises the site’s importance and historical connection to women.”

And the Greater London Authority’s housing chief, Tom Copley, said: “Londoners desperately need more high-quality homes available at social rent levels so I’m pleased that we’re able to work with our partners at Peabody and Islington to maximise the number of social rent homes on this development.

“This is a vote of confidence in this vital project that will deliver housing the people of Islington can be proud of.”

Work on the first homes is expected to be started on the site in 2022 with the development completed by 2025.