Every Thursday evening through September, Channel 4 will be welcoming viewers into the ups and downs of Southwark Council’s housing and environment teams and the residents they support, writes Cllr Kieron Williams.
Over the past two years we’ve been working with production company The Garden on a six-part documentary, Council House Britain, which starts this week on Channel 4.
The programme shines a light on the incredible efforts of our frontline staff, and the challenges the council and so many residents face in trying to ensure everyone can find a place to call home.
Southwark’s council homes are one of our borough’s great strengths. They provide truly affordable homes for people from every walk of life, here in the heart of one of world most expensive cities.
With 53,000 homes and over 200 estates, we are the largest council landlord in London. We receive more than 1,700 requests for repairs every week and invest £21m every year in maintenance alone.
Not to mention the millions we have put in over the last decade to bring all of our council homes up to the decent homes standard, and to ensure our tenants have modern kitchens and bathrooms.
It was important to us that Council House Britain does not shy away from displaying many of the challenges we face in order to provide genuinely affordable, secure and safe housing for our residents.
We know we don’t get everything right but if we all understand and tackle the challenges together, we will find better solutions. This is why we committed to this documentary.
Whether it is fire safety, pest control or simply finding a home for those who need it most, this show will give viewers a first-hand view of how hard our staff work, with grace and determination to do the best for all those who approach the council for their housing needs.
Publicly-owned housing is a bedrock of any good society. We need genuinely affordable and secure homes. Where families know they can put down roots, raise children without having to move them from school to school, and stay connected with their communities and support networks.
COVID-19 has reminded us all just how important it is to have a good home.
However for thousands the private market is not providing the homes they need. In Southwark the average cost of a private rented two-bed property is over £24,000 a year; a sum completely out of reach for many of our residents.
It is unsurprising then that demand for a council home, at around £100 a week, is sky-high: with a waiting list of 13,000 households.
However, for all its importance, across Britain, council housing continues to disappear at an alarming rate, with 170,000 council homes lost nationally in the last decade alone.
In Southwark we are determined to buck that trend. We have one of the most ambitious council home building programmes in the country – delivering 11,000 new council homes by 2043 – with over 2,000 already being designed and built across 70 sites around our borough. With the total number of council homes in our borough now rising again.
In Southwark we treasure our council housing and I hope this programme will remind the whole country of the importance of everyone having a place to call home.