Building a brighter future

Nick and Phil

With a growing population and rising cost of living, it’s no secret that the housing situation in London is really challenging – and Islington is no exception. But, while demand for genuinely affordable housing is still high, the council has already made great strides of progress. Now, it’s setting its sights even higher, having just announced plans to build 750 new homes by 2027. IslingtonLife speaks to council staff and residents to find out how the work is improving the borough – and the lives of the people who live here

One of the main benefits of building new homes, says director of new build housing Jed Young, is it allows residents to be moved into accommodation that meets their needs. That might be moving a growing family into a larger home, or downsizing an older adult into ground floor, accessible housing. This sets in motion a chain of movement: a family in a two-bedroom flat might move into a new three-bedroom house, for example, making way in a two-bed for a smaller household, and so on. “It helps to free up a system which is otherwise over stretched,” Jed explains.

Measures are also being taken to ensure the homes meet high standards, both in terms of resident wellbeing and the environment. In line with the council’s net zero carbon by 2030 target, “all the new schemes will be net zero carbon energy in use,” he continues. Ten per cent of homes built will be wheelchair accessible and all will be ‘lifetime adaptable’, meaning “as people’s needs change over time, their homes can easily be adapted” – they’re structured so that a hoist can easily be fitted over the bath, for example. Fire safety standards have also “substantially shifted up a gear,” says Jed. Walls are built from non-combustible materials and surfaces are durable, “so our caretakers can clean them, they’ll last and they’re not trip hazards.”

The job isn’t done once construction stops, though. “Once a new home is built, responsibility is handed over to colleagues in the aftercare team,” Jed explains. “There are still bits of coordination needed, but we’ve got a new team in place to streamline the process and ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.”

The King Square estate in Clerkenwell is the council’s biggest development. Eleni Tsoskounoglou, project lead, tells us more.

It was a huge challenge to deliver such a high number of new homes, especially in the face of Covid. Working closely with the local community, we built on an underused car park and surplus land released from the adjacent school. This joined up approach created more space to build new homes, as well as helped fund the new primary school.

The scheme delivered 140 high quality, energy efficient and attractive homes, as well as landscaping and environmental improvements. The new homes overlook communal courtyards, and have windows and entrances overlooking the street, reducing opportunities for anti-social behaviour. This makes people safer all-round.

The scheme created a new community centre and upgraded the local community nursery. We’ve also added extra bike shed spaces, to encourage people to cycle, and added a lot more trees and greenery.

It’s transformed the estate into a really attractive environment. There’s a different feel when you walk through, which benefits the wider community.

Nick and Phil
Nick lives with his partner Phil, dog Boris and cat Cersei. They moved from one of the original blocks on the King Square estate into a flat in a new block last year.

Phil and I work with vulnerable adults, so we understand how essential safe, decent and genuinely affordable homes are – not just for us, but for the people we help every day.

I have mobility issues and at times have had a mobility scooter. I sometimes struggled in previous homes to reach sockets or open cupboard doors, but here day-to-day life is much easier. It’s the small things – things you don’t notice when they’re right, but really do when they’re wrong, like having enough plug sockets, good sound insulation, good internet and wider doors that a wheelchair fits through. It’s also quieter, which is really helpful, as we both work from home and are often on the phone dealing with difficult and sensitive work issues.

I like living on the estate. It’s a great area; close to the city, and public transport is great. There’s a good local community. Some of the people have lived here since it was built and now their children live here too. I feel quite settled here.

In 2019, Dipo and his family moved into a new home near Caledonian Road. They previously lived in a smaller home on the same estate, but they struggled for space.

The new home is a blessing. Life has changed a lot since we moved in. During the pandemic, with everyone spending much more time at home, it became even more important to have enough space to work and relax.

My younger sister was at university, but due to Covid has spent the last two years completing her degree remotely. I don’t know how it would’ve worked if she hadn’t had her own room.

My older sister lives nearby and mum looks after her children in the day. Having enough bedrooms means she can look after them while my sister is studying and my brother is working from home. We can enjoy the space with our family, but also do our own thing, on the same estate where we grew up. I still have the same friends. Our estate is friendly; people talk to each other. I know my neighbours. I can really see the changes taking place in Islington, with lots of new restaurants and shops opening, but my estate still feels the same.

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