Published - 6 June 2019

Woodberry Down success inspires New York City

The regeneration of Woodberry Down in Hackney has already scooped a number of awards – but now it is inspiring better public housing in New York City.

The Citizens Housing Planning Council (CHPC) in New York aims to show how partnerships between housing authorities and affordable housing providers can lead to positive changes for residents, using the UK as an example.

Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) chief executive Kate Davies was invited to New York last month by the CHPC, along with Jenny Osbourne of Tpas, the tenant engagement experts, and Geoff Bell, resident and chair of the Woodberry Down Community Organisation.

They visited residents living in CHPC homes, met with Vicki Been, the city’s deputy mayor of housing and economic development, and spoke about how partnership working has succeeded at Woodberry Down at a conference attended by 200 people.

The conference speakers meet with residents of CHPC homes in New York

One of the main focuses was on how important it is to ensure tenants themselves have a say on the homes and communities being created.

Woodberry Down is NHG’s largest regeneration project creating around 5,500 new homes alongside community facilities, schools and businesses over the next 20 years. It is being delivered with Berkeley Homes and Hackney Council.

The project has had a number of award successes and nominations, including being named UK Project of the Year and Best UK Regeneration by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in November.

Kate Davies speaking at the conference

Speaking about the visit, Kate Davies said: “It was fascinating to hear more about public housing in New York, where they have 150,000 homes with deep and difficult issues which they don’t know how to deal with. They are interested in the idea of residents working with homebuilders to create something people want to live in.

“Residents know what works and the people we spoke to in New York were very impressed at our genuine empowerment of residents and how we get people involved in designing and creating their communities.

“The warm responses we have received show our approach has a lot to offer and I hope our experience of working in successful partnerships, like we have at Woodberry Down, goes some way to helping New York in the future.”

We met both decision-makers and tenants. We learnt from them and hopefully they listened to us. We flew the flag for partnership working, but my main message was that tenants’ empowerment in everything from the design of apartments to landscaping to choosing social facilities makes good sense for residents, landlords and developers.

Geoff Bell

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, said: "I'm proud that our committed partnership at Woodberry Down is building thousands of modern, high-quality homes in a resident-led regeneration.

"In Hackney, we are clear that new homes and public facilities must be designed with local people, for local people. It's fantastic to see residents like Geoff who have freely given their time and effort to hold our vision to account sharing their experiences around the world. It builds on my own visit in April where I showcased our unwavering commitment to public housing."

Sarah Watson, deputy director of the CHPC in New York, added: “We were honoured to have Kate and Geoff meet with high-profile policymakers and elected officials at New York City Hall, public housing tenants in their homes, and to present details of their work to an audience of the NYC housing industry and government staff.

“Kate’s vast expertise as an affordable housing leader with clear focus on the needs and voices of residents, alongside Geoff’s experience at Woodberry Down, were incredibly helpful in conveying the novel concept of productive tenant engagement in housing and regeneration for New York City.

“For public housing tenants and political leaders alike, the Woodberry Down experience gave NYC a lot to think about. Both Kate and Geoff’s perspective was crucial in showing how tenant engagement can be meaningful for all parties. The success of Woodberry Down will continue to serve as an inspiration for New York City.”

The trip was funded by the CHPC.

Notting Hill Genesis
Communications, Notting Hill Genesis