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chronyx

How long will London property have to last?

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Bit of a stream of thoughts so bare with me.

I work in SW/W areas of London as an electrician and am intrigued by the buildings I end up working in.  I wonder if there are any unmolested townhouses left that have not been converted into flats. I'd love to see one in an original condition - every now and then I find some untouched decor above a ceiling.  The flats are all a fairly decent size so the places must have been amazing back then - and these were standard accommodation?

Anyway, most of them seem to have been converted decades ago rather than in the recent boom, so it's been going on for a while.

As a large part of the London economy is based on the buying and selling of these, it's a zero sum game and the lack of maintenance and upgrades really shows.

Most of them seem to have been converted quickly, cheaply, and badly anyway (And that's just the electrics which is the only part I'm interested in). You should see some of the pictures of dodgy electrics I've taken. 

What they need is to be flattened and replaced with purpose built flats if that's what the demand is for, but as each individual house is part of a terrace and PCL property is falling, there's no money in such a venture.

So how long will these properties have to last before it's cost effective to level them and replace from scratch?

Edited by chronyx

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3 hours ago, chronyx said:

Bit of a stream of thoughts so bare with me.

I work in SW/W areas of London as an electrician and am intrigued by the buildings I end up working in.  I wonder if there are any unmolested townhouses left that have not been converted into flats. I'd love to see one in an original condition - every now and then I find some untouched decor above a ceiling.  The flats are all a fairly decent size so the places must have been amazing back then - and these were standard accommodation?

Anyway, most of them seem to have been converted decades ago rather than in the recent boom, so it's been going on for a while.

As a large part of the London economy is based on the buying and selling of these, it's a zero sum game and the lack of maintenance and upgrades really shows.

Most of them seem to have been converted quickly, cheaply, and badly anyway (And that's just the electrics which is the only part I'm interested in). You should see some of the pictures of dodgy electrics I've taken. 

What they need is to be flattened and replaced with purpose built flats if that's what the demand is for, but as each individual house is part of a terrace and PCL property is falling, there's no money in such a venture.

So how long will these properties have to last before it's cost effective to level them and replace from scratch?

This is something that's been intriguing me for some time but from a different perspective.

I left the area in Leicester I grew up in because the bulk of the properties in it had become student lets.Student lets are all good and well when the market's buzzing and there's a steady stream of suckers wanting to pay £50,000 for a degree in Social Sciences from de Montfort Uni.

Problem comes when either

a ) the suckers stop coming or

b ) the Uni's and some big conglomerates come in and build purpose built accommodation with all bills in.

The houses have been turned from 3 beds into 6,left to rot in terms of windows,roof,central heating and electrics.

Perfect for student letting unless there's no students.

 

Like you,I wonder if we'll reach a point where it's worth pulling them down

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Interesting topic - Its not just poorly converted townhouses that are an issue though. London also has lots of pre-war housing developments that  need to be knocked down and replaced.

 

Take the Meridian estate in Greenwich:

Meridian Estate, Greenwich

 

It's right up against a Unesco World Heritage site (literally facing the Cutty Sark) and apart from being an eyesore - the place is falling apart.

 

It was built (pretty cheaply) in the early 1930s, was renovated at great expense in 1999 (f*** knows what they spent the money on) and takes an increasing amount of money each year for the Council to maintain. Not to mention all that wasted space for a surface car park (about 5 times the size of the actual built area)

 

Why not just knock it down and replace it with something modern?

 

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At the risk of the grossest generalisation, the quality of the property in a country at any given time reflects that country's power and prosperity.

The "feel" of being in a house built during Britain's powerful days is so different. There is space, for one thing, and build quality, and style. Even for old Victorian terraces.

Until the UK becomes properly prosperous again (though trade and exporting, not a series of housing bubbles) the money to build quality housing will not be available. 

You never know, post-Brexit Britain may indeed start to rebalance the economy away from unproductive and dangerous financialisation (bye bye banksters and housing bubbles!) to productive wealth creation through manufacturing, in addition to the existing selling of services. 

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18 minutes ago, EssKay said:

Interesting topic - Its not just poorly converted townhouses that are an issue though. London also has lots of pre-war housing developments that  need to be knocked down and replaced.

 

Take the Meridian estate in Greenwich:

Meridian Estate, Greenwich

 

It's right up against a Unesco World Heritage site (literally facing the Cutty Sark) and apart from being an eyesore - the place is falling apart.

 

It was built (pretty cheaply) in the early 1930s, was renovated at great expense in 1999 (f*** knows what they spent the money on) and takes an increasing amount of money each year for the Council to maintain. Not to mention all that wasted space for a surface car park (about 5 times the size of the actual built area)

 

Why not just knock it down and replace it with something modern?

 

Ask the people that live there, not just a home but a community......You will find they might like living there if they feel safe and secure........ already seen massive gentrification in London where people move in to push others out and capitalise off the back of them.;)

Edited by winkie

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exactly yes ask the people that live there and if they were born in London then they are the very people who made the city great, only for outsiders to come in wanting it to look like some kind of wonderland.

I have been in similar flats and they are nice and spacious inside as were most london council flats.

When I go back to london now I barely recognise it, yes it was grimey but it was meant to be that way and we loved it like that, it worked.

Now it's little more than a shiny over priced yuppie standstill, a shame.

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1 hour ago, winkie said:

Ask the people that live there, not just a home but a community......You will find they might like living there if they feel safe and secure........ already seen massive gentrification in London where people move in to push others out and capitalise off the back of them.;)

Anyone who has ever earnestly used the word "gentrification" needs to have their vote rescinded.

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51 minutes ago, winkie said:

Ask the people that live there, not just a home but a community......You will find they might like living there if they feel safe and secure........ already seen massive gentrification in London where people move in to push others out and capitalise off the back of them.;)

 

I think the "community spirit" line in London is overplayed. I've lived here in various places for about 17 years without noticing any discernible community spirit.

 

As for gentrification - replacing a worn out sh**hole isn't gentrification, it's replacing a worn out sh**hole. The council have ample powers to ensure that any replacement guarantees places for any displaced tenants so the traditional definition of gentrification need not apply

 

Looking specifically at this place, I'm sure there are a few genuine council tenants in there, but like most of these places in London, most of the flats have actually been RTB'd many years ago and are now in the hand of slumlords - with the interiors poorly maintained and the council picking up the tab for block maintenance for a token service charge (haemorrhaging money in the process)

 

Who does that benefit?

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1 hour ago, winkie said:

Ask the people that live there, not just a home but a community......You will find they might like living there if they feel safe and secure........ already seen massive gentrification in London where people move in to push others out and capitalise off the back of them.;)

+ 1. There are 50 or so households that the borough council will have to rehouse. A very difficult thing to try and do in London.

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1 hour ago, EssKay said:

Why not just knock it down and replace it with something modern?

 

Great in theory, a nightmare in practice. 

The government won't allow councils to borrow enough money to rebuild estates themselves, so they have to rely on selling to for-profit developers or doing JVs with them.

Developers' need to make profit results in them capturing the land value uplift and building luxury flats that council leaseholders can't afford to buy with the amount that they get bought out for. Flats get sold to overseas investors who get to capture UK wages in rent.

While you can argue it's unfair on other people for council tenants and leaseholders to get a free ride to an extent by getting to stay in place and having nicer digs built for them, that's still a pretty disruptive process.

As things are turning out in places like Elephant & Castle, whole communities are being displaced and people are being moved away from where their jobs and friends are. If the government is doing that to people it should have the decency to build good accommodation for them to move to. 

Look out for a growing backlash from council estates that are getting earmarked for demolition as people learn from others' experience and do a better job of resisting. 

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Patient London FTB said:

Great in theory, a nightmare in practice. 

The government won't allow councils to borrow enough money to rebuild estates themselves, so they have to rely on selling to for-profit developers or doing JVs with them.

Council's don't *have* to deal with private sector developers - they choose to do that usually for political reasons (Tory councils) or because someone somewhere is getting a backhander (e.g. through ex council officials acting as "consultants" for developers)

 

There is a perfectly valid alternative - entering into agreements with housing associations - which have a much better track record of safeguarding displaced tenants

 

 

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Converted flats in period terraced houses are more expensive than new builds, for the simple reason they are often more spacious, have bigger windows and higher ceilings, and nice period features such as cornicing, ceiling roses, and fireplaces.

Knocking down period housing to build shitty new builds makes zero sense, in a housing market where most people with money and taste would prefer to live in a period property.

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1 hour ago, EssKay said:

 

I think the "community spirit" line in London is overplayed. I've lived here in various places for about 17 years without noticing any discernible community spirit.

 

As for gentrification - replacing a worn out sh**hole isn't gentrification, it's replacing a worn out sh**hole. The council have ample powers to ensure that any replacement guarantees places for any displaced tenants so the traditional definition of gentrification need not apply

 

Looking specifically at this place, I'm sure there are a few genuine council tenants in there, but like most of these places in London, most of the flats have actually been RTB'd many years ago and are now in the hand of slumlords - with the interiors poorly maintained and the council picking up the tab for block maintenance for a token service charge (haemorrhaging money in the process)

 

Who does that benefit?

Really, I've read on a few forums of landlords moaning about having to pay out thousands in service charges for ex-council flats!

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25 minutes ago, Kent Ambitions said:

Converted flats in period terraced houses are more expensive than new builds, for the simple reason they are often more spacious, have bigger windows and higher ceilings, and nice period features such as cornicing, ceiling roses, and fireplaces.

Knocking down period housing to build shitty new builds makes zero sense, in a housing market where most people with money and taste would prefer to live in a period property.

So new build properties have to be crap, even in 'prime' London?  Are high ceilings now illegal or something?

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1 hour ago, chronyx said:

So new build properties have to be crap, even in 'prime' London?  Are high ceilings now illegal or something?

Ceiling height is sacrificed to cram in as many flats as possible within the permitted development height

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3 minutes ago, Kent Ambitions said:

Ceiling height is sacrificed to cram in as many flats as possible within the permitted development height

No loft space....more rent income space......not giving it away.;)

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2 hours ago, fru-gal said:

Really, I've read on a few forums of landlords moaning about having to pay out thousands in service charges for ex-council flats!

I'd take slumlords bleating about council service charges with a huge dose of salt.

 

The annual service charge in that block in Greenwich is about £600 for a 2 bed flat (a pittance by London standards)

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12 minutes ago, EssKay said:

I'd take slumlords bleating about council service charges with a huge dose of salt.

 

The annual service charge in that block in Greenwich is about £600 for a 2 bed flat (a pittance by London standards)

So that must be a good thing for the people living there.......can you imagine if it were knocked down they would be completely priced out of their area.....anything that gives people cheaper housing must be a good thing.....or are you envious?;)

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13 minutes ago, EssKay said:

I'd take slumlords bleating about council service charges with a huge dose of salt.

 

The annual service charge in that block in Greenwich is about £600 for a 2 bed flat (a pittance by London standards)

Service charges on council properties will be low, apart from when they decide they have to do improvements e.g. new roof or replace old wooden window frames with PVC. It'll be the cost of that stuff that the landlords will be complaining about.

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37 minutes ago, winkie said:

So that must be a good thing for the people living there.......can you imagine if it were knocked down they would be completely priced out of their area.....anything that gives people cheaper housing must be a good thing.....or are you envious?;)

It may give them cheaper housing but ultimately the money that's not being collected in service charges comes out of my (and other net tax payers) council tax. 

 

Plus, as I've already said, the majority of the places in there are owned by slumlords - are you happy for them to be subbed too?

 

 

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40 minutes ago, Patient London FTB said:

Service charges on council properties will be low, apart from when they decide they have to do improvements e.g. new roof or replace old wooden window frames with PVC. It'll be the cost of that stuff that the landlords will be complaining about.

Private developments also charge residents for major works.

 

The difference is they do a better job of budgeting for it and getting the property owners to pay for it

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3 minutes ago, EssKay said:

It may give them cheaper housing but ultimately the money that's not being collected in service charges comes out of my (and other net tax payers) council tax. 

 

Plus, as I've already said, the majority of the places in there are owned by slumlords - are you happy for them to be subbed too?

 

 

Like I said....go knock on each door and ask everyone living there if they would like their home to be demolished......because I can guarantee if it was they would have no part in any improved living standard, living in the same place, their existing community.;)

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I've mentioned similar about Edinburgh before on here. Flats here are freehold - so its up to the owners to look after them. Up until about 7-8 years ago they had a pretty good scheme in place for ensuring things get kept in good order. A resident or group would contact the council about potential repairs. The council would then take on the job after getting a few tenders in - and be in charge of getting the works done and also chasing up the money. Being the council - they had far more clout than if an individual in a block of 12 flats tried to take this on themselves.

Only problem was you had people in the council on the brown paper envelopes. Loads of overpriced jobs being carried out. Came to note when a few places had ex architects or builders in them who investigated the high cost they had been quoted. Few people got jailed for it but it went far deeper by all accounts. In response the council stopped this service.

Since then very, very few large pieces of work have been undertaken on these tenement type flats. As its meant to be a nightmare getting everyone to agree on costs and to actually pay for it. Things have just been left. I know two examples myself.

1 - The rented flat I live in right now. Got a letter from the planning department last year stating a historic communal statutory repair on the building I was in was being removed. Not noted on their system as not complete or similar - literally deleted from their system. Nothing will remain to show it was even there. One of the reasons they gave for this was it will make it easier to sell your flat if this is not on their system - as its something a solicitor may bring up [And so they should ffs]. My lord.

So these repairs have not been made - and will continue to get worse. I think the original logging of it was 5+ years ago. So who knows what sort of long term issues will come from it.

2 - Pal from school. Had a flat for years. Rented it out. Room had a big bubble in the ceiling. After years of faffing about someone in the block managed to get everyone to stick in £50 each or whatever to find out the overall issue. Specialist came round - did his stuff - and told them they need xx work done and it would cost YY each. Think it was in the thousands. More than half of the residents of the block simply said no - we're not paying for that. Nuts.

This was a water issue. I'm no expert but I'm pretty sure this is what leads to wet/dry rot. And to make matters worse these blocks are not independent - they are all joined to ones either side. So this water issue may well impact other completely unrelated (Or so they thought) flats on either side of this block.

 

All in all - I tell anyone that will listen - that buying a tenement flat in Edinburgh right now is a massive risk and IMO totally insane.

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7 hours ago, EssKay said:

 

Why not just knock it down and replace it with something modern?

 

Why do you think the council will do a good job the second time round?  The Albert Mansions were built 50 years that estate and are still in great shape - so flats can last if they are started well.

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