Residents living in shared ownership flats on Greenwich Peninsula claim they will be priced out if service charges continue to be hiked.
Neighbours in the Waterman Building and Bessemer Place claim their service charges have shot up 30 per cent over the last two years with little explanation from housing association L&Q. They say the increases will eventually price them out of what was supposed to be an affordable foot on the property market.
In the 32-storey Waterman Building, they also have to use a “poor door” to access their homes.
One resident, Lara Platten, 35, said her service charge has become a stealth tax, with little explanation of what they pay for.
She said: “This is all sold as social housing but the charges are just plucked out the air, they are going up and up. There’s a lack of transparency. This was the only development I could afford to buy in – shared ownership is not cheap because of the charges and the rent. When you’re balancing the mortgage and the rent it’s really expensive.
“The developer can only charge a lower percentage [of rent] – I am concerned that when you see the charges go up, is this where they start to claw it back?
“We don’t know what we are being charged for because they won’t break down the costs. There is a lack of transparency. Going through the poor door? I don’t care! But price hikes by stealth, that’s the worry.”
Neighbours say that it’s up to them to decipher whether they have been overcharged or not, and that previous years’ overpayments are not being refunded.
One, a 46-year-old council housing worker named Mark W, who lives in Bessemer Place, has already taken a complaint to L&Q over being charged for a garage he has not used.
Mark, one of the first people to move into his building, said: “I couldn’t wait. I was in a cramped bedsit and things looked great. It’s only now you get onto the rise of 16.5 per cent a year, with no evidence, that things don’t start to add up.
“They admitted I wasn’t using a garage and I was entitled to a refund. They said the other years are closed.
“Within five to seven years a lot of people will have to leave here. Society isn’t working – it’s people in ivory towers.”
Residents say they have to use a separate door and lift in the Waterman building, and are restricted from using a roof terrace and a gym. Following national reports about the issue, residents said that their treatment has been “like the lowest of the low”.
Another resident, George, said: “It creates segregation. Because the housing associations have allowed this, there is this disconnect. It doesn’t bode well for a good community.
“There isn’t the strongest community here so people don’t respect it as much.”
A spokesman for L&Q told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “As a regulated, charitable housing association and the provider of affordable housing on Greenwich Peninsula, L&Q makes home ownership possible for Londoners who would otherwise not be able to afford to buy their own home.
“On average, combined rent and service charge has increased by around 3 per cent since 2015. We are in the process of refunding residents in full for car parking charges which were included in error, for which we apologise.
“Our service charges are based on a budget which has been reviewed by an independent auditor. In order to keep costs to a minimum, the service charge for shared owners does not include access to the gym or roof terrace which are paid for and maintained by owners who pay additional service charge for these amenities. A full breakdown of service charges is available to our shared ownership residents on request.”
Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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