Of the 600 rented households, around 60 stayed for the new development, while 540 moved on, meaning we needed to help them find new homes. We’re confident that we offered them the best possible support and advice to move on.
Unlike some other regeneration schemes, at Larner Road it seemed most people’s main priority was to get away. Without anti-development campaign to placate, our priority was to help those who wanted to leave, and ensure the new Erith Park had a sustainable mix of housing types and residents.
A large number of the apartments on the old estate were bedsits or one bedroom flats. Even the two bedroom flats were often rented to single people or childless couples, because parents, especially single mothers, would be so reluctant to accept them. Of course households without children who are prioritised for housing by local authorities almost always have some kind of vulnerability.
The Larner Road estate had a reputation even less attractive than its physical reality, so people who ended up living there tended to be those with absolutely no other choice, and the most vulnerable. A high proportion faced challenges such as mental or physical health difficulties, substance abuse or the legacy of a childhood in care.
Orbit always has and always will offer housing to vulnerable people and those in crisis. However the concentration on one estate created problems of management and sustainability and didn’t help the individuals concerned.
Christine Carey, who had been working as a Neighbourhood Officer at Larner Road, was seconded to the Regeneration team for four years. She was brought in to help those who had decided not to stay to find new homes elsewhere, as our objective was to find a suitable housing solution for everyone from Larner Road, not just those who wanted to stayed.
Every resident received a personal visit to talk through their options, and most people understandably wanted to stay in affordable rented housing in the Borough. A few were keen to move to another area and, if Orbit had housing there, we were able to assist with a transfer. Others were considering buying a home or moving to the private rented sector and we were able to help them through releasing compensation money early to help fund a deposit.
Bexley Council’s allocation team worked with us to give our residents priority through Choice Based Lettings. This gave the majority of our residents, who wanted to stay in the area and the sector, the ability to bid for the properties they preferred and gave them a degree of choice and control in the process.
Much of Christine’s time was spent in helping a minority of very vulnerable people to accept and plan for a move. Often this involved a move to sheltered housing, a move they probably should have been considering anyway but which the regeneration process initiated. Christine worked with family members and professional carers to help people to accept and understand their choices and to plan for their future. These were the cases which gave Chris greatest satisfaction and pride in her work.
A year or more after their move, and before her return to the housing team, Chris revisited some of the people she had moved to find out how they had got on.