Buy now – Croydon will not be this pocket friendly for long

By - Monday 11th August, 2014

Sean Creighton asks what Croydon’s soaring house prices mean for local people, and finds a predictable answer

Saffron Square development, Wellesley Road, Croydon.
Photo by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission

“Impressive new housing developments are under construction and we have penthouses selling well in excess of £1m.”

“We have a real issue in the mainstream market, in that 80 per cent of houses in London are only affordable by 20 per cent of the population.”

“The Saffron development’s appeal will continue to push rents again during 2014. Buy now – Croydon will not be this pocket friendly for long.”

The first quote is from Richard Plant, Chairman of the Develop Croydon Forum and partner in Stiles Harold Williams; the second from London’s Deputy Mayor Richard Blakeway, and the third from 1st Avenue estate agents’ Paul Endacott.

At least 9,500 new homes are planned in Croydon over the next few years. If London Mayor Boris has his way it will become a housing zone to benefit from financial incentives to encourage even more house-building.

The quotes are from the May issue of Croydon News, published by the Develop Croydon Forum. The Forum brings together the leading developers, estate agents and office, hotel and house builders involved along with Croydon Council, CCURV, (Croydon Council Urban Regeneration Vehicle), Croydon Business Improvement District, the Croydon Partnership (the partnership of the Westfield Group & Hammerson plc developing the new Croydon Westfield Shopping Centre), and the Whitgift Foundation. It is a key driving force behind the strategy to physically transform Croydon, especially the town centre.

Berkeley’s Saffron Square

This includes Saffron Tower, a 43 storey block (142 metres) and up to 791 apartments with several blocks already sold.  According to Endacott, “Saffron Square stands as the yardstick by which other developers will follow… a lifestyle destination for the cash-rich, time-poor young professionals looking for a private gymnasium, concierge and café on their complex.”

Berkeley Homes’ Justin Tibaldi says: “Since Saffron Square was launched we have seen a significant increase in demand for high-end homes in the area both from owner occupiers and investors. The development is already achieving some of the best rental yields in Greater London with a waiting list from prospective tenants proving the demand for rental properties in the area.”

Menta’s Morello Quarter

This development by Menta and Redrow Homes ‘”has already generated great interest at home and abroad in Cherry Orchard Road, with its 55 storey residential tower and 800 new homes”‘ says Craig Marks, Menta’s Chief Exective Officer. “The Morello scheme was extremely well-received during the UK launch in March and also had a successful airing in Singapore and Hong Kong. Menta has already generated £2.5m in sales.”

Ruskin Square

Stanhope and Schroder’s Ruskin Square development begins this year with a 22 storey residential tower. There will be 600 homes in total.

The new Croydon Westfield shopping centre

This includes 600 apartments. Westfield has sold off three regional centres outside London to Intu Properties to concentrate on its developments in Croydon and Milan.

St George’s House, formerly the Nestlé building.
Photo by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission.

Taberner House (the former Croydon Council building) and College Green

Under the Council/John Laing CCURV partnership this is being demolished and replaced with new blocks (including a 32 storey one) to create 600 residential units. Of these, 230 will be for private rent by Essential Life. Since Croydon News was published, the new Labour administration has pulled back the support for the scheme so as to prevent encroachment on College Gardens.

Barratt’s New South Quarter

This scheme comprises 923 studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments. Gary Patrick, Barratt’s London regional sales director says: “Croydon is exceptionally popular with buyers not only because of the excellent transport links to London but also for its green aspects, including the restored Wandle Park. Croydon is becoming increasingly popular with a range of buyer profiles… Rental yields can only… rise with the Whitgift redevelopment.”

One Lansdowne Road

Guildhouse Rosepride has permission to build a 55 storey tower (200m high) including 397 apartments.

Cane Hill, Coulsdon

Barratt Homes has permission for 675 new homes (1-5 bed), including 163 designated ‘affordable’.

Offices to residential

Legal & General plans to replace the former Nestlé building (St George’s House) with two new buildings containing 265 private apartments, of which 23 will be designated ‘affordable’. 16 office blocks were bought last year to convert to residential: a total of 1.2m sq ft.

This is physical regeneration but not sustainable economic and social regeneration

So – who will benefit from these developments?

Sold to the public and the councillors as ‘regeneration,’ the effect of these developments appears to be a future influx of people from outside the borough who can afford the sale prices and rentals of the new apartments. While there will be a small supply of so-called affordable homes, most of these these will not be enough to meet the needs of the thousands of existing residents who cannot afford to become home-owners and who are finding life in private rented housing more and more costly and intolerable.

This may be physical regeneration, but it is not sustainable economic and social regeneration designed to lessen social exclusion and inequality. This is an issue which I will address in a future article.

The need for such sustainable regeneration is central to the work of the Fairness Commission set up by Croydon’s new Labour administration, to the next stage of the development of its Growth Plan and consultation on the Croydon Local Development Plan. The debate needs to start now and I welcome comments in my capacity as convenor of the Croydon Trades Union Congress (TUC) working party on the Growth Plan.

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

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  • Anne Giles

    What really concerns me about filling Croydon up with more and more residents is 1) more residents produce a lot more rubbish. Where will this rubbish go? It will be far more costly for the Council, as more and more Veolia lorries will have to be used; 2) what will happen to our water supply? Thames Water will have to supply an awful lot more water for all the thousands wanting daily baths/showers, using washing machines, dishwashers, etc. Will we all have our water rationed? Has anyone done their maths properly?

  • lizsheppardjourno

    I confess that I find highrise cityscape exciting and beautiful, and therefore feel positive, even thrilled, about this aspect of Croydon’s transformation.

    I’ve read and understood recent articles in this publication and elsewhere on how the price of land affects the cost of housing – hence a situation is created in which whilst many agree that housing should be ‘affordable;’ (we can argue about exactly what that means) the laws of the market (which can never be gainsaid) dictate that such developments are impossible.

    But I draw a different conclusion. I conclude that ‘market forces’ must be restrained. The massive inequalities we are creating are unacceptable, unsustainable and ultimately risk unleashing destructive forces in our society.

  • Ally McKinlay

    I’m curious as to what people feel is a solution to “affordable” housing and at what point a line will drawn on how many properties can exist in Croydon.

    We’re rapidly approaching a population of 400,000 people, how long before we’re half a million?

    How interactive will our new residents be in their communities on the 48th floor of whichever Tower Block they’re residing in?

    I’m with Liz as far as the town looking & feeling good but have we got the resources & services to cope and will our new residents care about the Town?

  • Tom Lickley

    There is no complicated argument here. It’s supply and demand. Lots of people want to live in London. There aren’t enough houses in London. So the houses which do exist cost a lot. The government can’t afford to cover the costs for all, and why should they?
    London is THE most popular city on the planet, it’s the second most expensive to live in after Hong Kong, so of course the wealthy want to live here, and of course it will cost a lot. A massive sense of perspective is missing in this article. There are many thousands of cities in the world, but London, alongside a handful of others, is where the majority want to live. So inevitably prices will get pushed up.
    As a country we desperately need to drop the concept of home ownership. Many cities which have rapidly expanding population already have. Many cities around the world have soaring tower blocks because that is the only solution – and they don’t have the perceived crime and lack of community that people in this country feel goes with it.
    Sometimes I don’t think people understand – London needs 40,000 new homes. Every year. For 25 years. Some will be more affordable than others. Less time needs to be spent moaning about a mix of communities, or on planning, or on design and more on just getting the units available.

    • Anne Giles

      Home ownership is very important. No landlord telling you you can’t keep pets. No landlord deciding to suddenly put your rentup. If you rent a place, you pay forever. If you buy, it is eventually yours – no more payments! Then you can leave it in your Will for your children, or anyone else for that matter, or use it to help pay for your care home in later years.

      • Tom Lickley

        Landlords can’t suddenly put your rent up – this is what contracts are signed for. If you buy a place in London, you’re going to be paying forever anyway in terms of mortgage payments, without the flexibility that comes with renting and with the pain of buying and selling a home. With all due respect, pets are a luxury that come far lower in priority than having a place to live. London isn’t affordable and that isn’t going to change unless enough houses are built – which also 99.9% isn’t going to happen. The future is for renting, whether people like it or not.

        • Anne Giles

          I have to disagree. One doesn’t pay a mortgage forever. Ours was paid up years’ ago. The house is now completely ours. Who would want to live in London anyway? Much better to be in the suburbs, such as Croydon. Pets are very important and extremely good for one’s health and wellbeing. A lot nicer than a lot of humans.