Building upwards in London: could rooftop extensions help housing crisis?

Southwark Council has put forward an innovative building plan to address the urgent need for more council housing to give over 12,000 families on the waiting list a home and get 2,000 children out of temporary accommodation.

London’s Southwark Council is determined to build 11,000 new council homes by 2043. With available land sites scarce in the capital, Southwark Council is aiming to build upwards, extending on existing housing blocks to help meet the big numbers it plans over and above the 600 new council homes already built.

The plan to build bespoke rooftop housing with upward extensions is regarded as one of the UK’s most ambitious building programmes planned by a council.

Council will aim to minimise disruption for residents

Recognising that the rooftop plan could impact on many residents living in the affected buildings, Southwark Council has made it clear to the community that they will give commitment to residents to introduce principles around the new plan. Their objective is to keep the impact on residents to a minimum, but provide maximum benefits.

Residents living immediately underneath the new homes will be given the first opportunity to move into them, giving those who lived on the top floor the option to stay on the top floor in a new home. The vacated properties will be made available to those on the waiting list.

Southwark’s offer to residents affected by rooftop development

  1. Building the homes off-site so the on-site installation on adapted blocks is as brief as possible
  2. First dibs on the new homes to all residents living immediately underneath them (including an offer to leaseholders to ‘move their equity upstairs’), with newly vacated homes made available to the wider housing register
  3. Accompanying improvements to the existing block, with any new roof, lift or landscaping directly associated with the building of the rooftop homes, non-rechargeable to leaseholders

Councillor Leo Pollak, cabinet member for social regeneration, great estates and new homes, said: “Rooftop housing has a great potential to not only deliver hundreds of high quality new council homes and improve existing homes, but also to help de-carbonise the development supply chain. We’ve spoken to residents about the opportunities and challenges linked to rooftop housing and the kind of preferences that were raised were things like their desire to remain on the top floor, being prioritised for the new homes and improvements being made to the rest of the block.

“Unlocking a new dimension of council housing supply like this is not going to be straightforward, but we are driven by the potential for hundreds, potentially thousands of new council homes in our borough.”

Pollak added: “We plan to offer a quicker on-site construction time by doing most of the building off-site, first refusal on the new homes to those living underneath, and improvements to the existing block, with any costs associated with the new homes – such as a new roof, lift and landscaping – non-rechargeable to leaseholders.”

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