Green light to fix Kilburn homes for more than they cost to buy
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Brent Council has given itself the green light to repair Kilburn housing blocks for more than they cost to buy them twelve years ago.
The Granville New Homes residential development comprising blocks in Granville Road, Princess Road and Canterbury Road completed in 2009 was bought for £17.1m and estimated costs to repair it are estimated at £18.5m.
A report by Ridge, commissioned by owners First Wave Housing (FWH), found blocks within GNH "suffer from poor quality design, construction and workmanship going back to the original construction".
At a cabinet meeting on October 11, councillors agreed to carry the costs of remediation, so the blocks would not be demolished, residents would see minimal disruption, and to safeguard the council's different businesses from going bust.
GNH was developed by Brent Council and developer Higgins.
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In 2007, the council selected Hyde Housing as their preferred partner to buy the properties but the housing group did not find the scheme viable, according to the council's cabinet report.
The council's arm’s length management organisation (ALMO), Brent Housing Partnership (BHP) purchased Granville New Homes, through a loan from the council, for £17.1m in 2009.
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BHP dissolved in 2016 and was replaced by FWH a year later with Brent Council as guarantor to take over the management of its 329 properties, including the 110 properties within Granville New Homes.
Deputy council leader Margaret McLennan said: "Since GNH was developed in 2009 there's been ongoing problems in terms of water ingress, wanting to replace the windows and general refurbishment.
"Following Grenfell, the issue of fire safety was also a concern quite rightly with residents."
She said the £18.5m cost to rectify the issues relating to GNW homes was "currently unviable for FWH and technically will bankrupt them so there's no easy cost solutions here".
"We need to remediate issues with GH and also as well make sure that FWH is a viable option going forward," she added.
Following consultation the 84 social housing tenants and sole leaseholder will be moved to Brent's Housing Revenue Account.
The 25 intermediate homes will be taken over by Brent's housing business i4B.
Cllr McLennan told the meeting the poor build of GNH back in 2009 would not happen today.
She said "We have robust procurement methodology and we wouldn't tolerate the type of workmanship that was carried forward in 2009 into 2021."
A community and wellbeing scrutiny committee meeting on October 7 heard that officers for FWH only knew of problems "this year when we got the Ridge report."
Cllr Mary Daly said she was "alarmed" and wanted to know "how long did Brent Council know those properties are in a terrible state,"
Cllr Gaynor Lloyd said: “From talking with residents there have been complaints about water penetration throughout.
“Telling me you didn’t know about the defects until last May – why did nobody seem to look at it before?
“Ask [Cllr] Janice Long – she says in an audit meeting that she’s heard nothing but concerns. This is a big problem for me.”
Cllr Lloyd also raised questions about Higgins who last year was awarded a £22m million contract for the redevelopment of the Hillside and Milton Avenue sites in Stonebridge.
Peter Gadson, FWH director said they had had no discussions with Higgins about the defects since they had been discovered.
They had been advised that there was no possibility of redress due to the passage of time.
Committee chair Cllr Ketan Sheth asked: "Why is Higgins still our partner?"
First Wave said they couldn't comment.
Among its recommendations the scrutiny committee suggested that "all contracts procured by the council and its subsidiaries include a review of past delivery of any potential contractors."
Dionne George, who moved into the estate in Canterbury Road in 2009, previously told this paper she has had "problems for near enough 10 years" with constant leaks.
"It's very depressing for me," she added.
Pete Firmin, chair of a residents' association in South Kilburn, said: "Unfortunately, this shows yet again what many of us have been saying for a long time - and Brent Council vehemently denies - that much of the new building in South Kilburn is sub-standard.
"The council has known for some time that there is a problem with Granville New Homes, but this is only now becoming public."