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Notting Hill Housing in the 1980s

In the 1980s, Notting Hill Housing supported community integration, launched the UK’s first shared ownership scheme in Ladbroke Grove, and began to expand its work into other areas of west London.

Maintaining mixed communities

Notting Hill had been a multicultural hub since the 1950s; however racial tensions had plagued the areas, so Notting Hill Housing (NHH) was aware from the outset of the need to work with the black community and to let homes to different ethnic groups to aid integration and community building.

NHH consciously set out to work with black families and activists in the area. Activity such as the regeneration of All Saints Road (and letting shops to businesses within the black community) and buying up the Mangrove restaurant (a well-known meeting place for the Caribbean community from across London since the 60s) led to the rejuvenation of a central community area.

From the start Notting Hill Housing also recognised that communities needed to be mixed income. The poor would be protected through secure tenancies and low rents, the low income ‘middle range’ household could remain in good areas through the shared ownership product, and NHH began to buy up shops and pubs from 1972 onwards in order to preserve or regenerate areas, generally bringing the flats and above shops back into use too.

Shared ownership – a national first

To this end NHH started to build and sell Low Cost Home Ownership housing (now called shared ownership), with the objective of helping lower income owner-occupiers stay in areas like North Kensington. Opened in 1980 at 88 Ladbroke Grove by John Stanley, then Minister for Housing, Notting Hill’s scheme was the first of its kind in the UK.

There was considerable opposition to some of these initiatives, especially shared ownership – which was seen by some as a waste of resources that could have been used for the homeless and needy.

Equally, the move into commercial properties was seen as a dangerous and risky business for a charity to get into. But it made sense, and NHH was once again ahead of the pack as it later became obligatory to provide commercial space in the majority of larger developments. Not only would the local businesses provide services or jobs for residents, but like shared ownership, the commercial returns would be important to support the social side of the business.

The 1980s also saw NHH spread from its Notting Hill/North Kensington base into areas like Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith and Fulham, as more Housing Improvement zones were created.

Funding challenges herald change

Perhaps the most important change in the 1980s was to the funding structure. By 1988 a new Act had come in which meant associations would now have to rely on private borrowing to supplement falling grant rates. Rents rose (by 22% in real terms) to help pay back the loans, and assured tenancies replaced secure ones. Tenants who could not afford the higher rents were able to get Housing Benefit to make up the difference.

As a result the old programme of refurbishing properties more or less ended, and NHH started looking for sites outside its core areas.