3 December 2019

When Wembley-based housing association Network Homes purchased a derelict hotel in Harrow town centre for redevelopment, little did we know this once innocuous site would become a first for Harrow and a key example of best practice for small development sites in London.

The site was originally earmarked to be a shared ownership development, providing homes for those priced out of private sale homes in Harrow – an area where the average new build home is 14 times average annual earnings.

Instead however, we were approached by Harrow Council and the Greater London Authority to use the site as a pilot of the Mayor of London’s new London Living Rent tenancy. This tenure offers properties to local residents at a rent pegged to one third of median incomes – roughly equivalent to 60% of market rates. In Harrow this meant £807 for a one-bedroom home and £897 for a two-bedroom home. Extra bedrooms are calculated at a small percentage increase to keep them affordable for families.

Not only do residents have the opportunity to live in a brand-new home at a very reasonable rent, they also have the right to buy the home on a shared ownership basis for several years after they move in. They also get priority on all shared ownership schemes in London. This makes it possible to save for a deposit during those years, then being able to buy the home they already live in, rather than having to move elsewhere. At the new homes in Harrow, residents can buy up to five years after launch and two residents have already purchased a share in their home.

The design of the scheme had to make good use of what was a small plot of land – giving an efficient density while not being overbearing on neighbouring sites. The top floor is built into the roof, giving residents the luxury of a large wrap-around terrace, while also shielding others from being overlooked. And while all homes have private outdoor space, a landscaped courtyard and garden area also gives residents at this small scheme a place to meet.

The location of the site also provided us with the opportunity to make the sustainable choice of a car-free scheme, except for spaces for three accessible flats. Ample secure bicycle storage is available giving enough room for each person in the homes to have a bike stored securely. The location of the scheme really makes this a possibility, the town centre location means tube and mainline stations are a five-minute walk away. And Harrow also benefits from an ample bus network connecting it to the surrounding areas. The town is very walkable with two shopping centres including a cinema, gym, restaurants and high street favourites, plus cafes and supermarkets within easy reach.

As the first London Living Rent homes in Harrow, and Network Homes’ first, the business had to be flexible as they worked. New processes needed to be arranged, new marketing had to be designed and staff had to get to grips with a new tenure. But our approach meant we were able to deliver 23 London Living Rent and four Affordable Rent homes, providing a much-needed opportunity for an often ignored section of low-middle income people to get on the housing ladder.

Network Homes won the award for Best Small Development at the National Housing Awards 2019.

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Kalumba Musambachime

Kalumba is Head of Build to Rent at Network Homes

Kalumba Musambachime MRICS has over 10 years’ experience working in the residential property sector, working primarily in the operational management of residential property assets with a specific focus on build to rent portfolio development and operational management.

Previously at Grainger Plc, the Guinness Partnership and LIV Group among others, Kalumba joined Network Homes in early 2017 as Head of Built to Rent and has lead the lease-up of Network Homes’ first built to rent development - Atrium Point in Greenford. In his current role, Kalumba is tasked with managing the performance of Network Homes’ build to rent business stream and working closely with colleagues to grow the portfolio.

A member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Kalumba also holds several academic qualifications in property which include a BSc, MSc and Post Graduate Diploma in Surveying.

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