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UK affordable housing idea could help Cayman’s crisis

Opinions & Editorial 23 Apr, 2024 Follow News

UK affordable housing idea could help Cayman’s crisis

Taking part in a recent Cayman Conversations with Ralph Lewis, Eric Bush, Chief Officer in the Ministry of Planning, Agriculture, Housing, Infrastructure, Transport & Development talked about the need to rethink the development of Cayman’s housing pool. During the discussion, he spoke about the need to consider shared space living in Cayman, as they do in many other parts of the world. One such project currently in the works in the UK is the redevelopment of the Tolworth Tower Complex in the London Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames.

Tolworth Tower was originally built as an office complex and stands at 81 metres with 22 floors and was completed in 1964. Since 2015, the derelict office complex has been subject to three separate applications for renovation, with the most recent application in early 2021 being refused by the planning inspectorate in June 2022 as they worried about the effect the project would have on the character and appearance of the site and surrounding area.

Revised plans following pre-planning consultations, which saw the number of planned affordable homes reduced from 499 to 492. They also included doubling the office floor space, increase in the size of public space, and redesigning the two new towers in a manner closely mimicking a local, architecturally significant 1960s office tower.

Proposed works include the renovation of the existing curtain wall on Tolworth Tower, with the conversion of most of the floors to 261 residential homes, with 69% of these being one-bedroom homes. These are expected to be for sale. There will also be new builds on some floors which will contain a further good number of homes. Income-restricted new homes are set to be delivered on the lower floors.

The current upper floors of the car park used by the customers of a store will be converted into landscaped amenity space for future residents, with developers hoping for a dramatic increase in biodiversity as a result.

In the Cayman Conversations episode, Mr Bush said Cayman’s current housing crisis was really an economic crisis and that shared space living such as this proposed project in Kingston helped to allay the costs of home ownership, such as insurance, electricity and maintenance.

“If it’s a multi-unit development, all of these costs are shared. You start to get the economies of scale of insurance, of cooling, of the building itself. This crunch/crisis is more of an economic crisis because it is talking about the actual affordability and attainability of the housing,” he said.

In this way, Cayman may well have to embrace higher buildings to accommodate home ownership on any scale. This was inevitably the natural solution, he said.

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