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'I think Peabody would be proud of us'

Across London 50,000 people live in Peabody housing

The chief executive of Peabody, Stephen Howlett, talks to BBC London about the enduring legacy of George Peabody and the services that the organisation provides for Londoners today.

Could you outline the core activities and aims of Peabody?

Our aim is to provide a real sense of purpose and a strong feeling of belonging, as well as good homes, to people in London.

We also provide employment support and training; we provide outreach services to vulnerable groups including rough sleepers, the long term unemployed, refugees and older people; and we are launching a diverse and ever-expanding range of youth-led projects.

Such initiatives are the work of our dedicated community services team established to tackle social disadvantage at its roots - poor education, low skills and lack of opportunity. The services we provide are available to those who need them, both Peabody residents and others.

How many people across London live in Peabody housing?

We provide homes to more than 50,000 people in London, with over 19,000 properties across London. Most are in central and inner London. Almost 6,000 of our properties were built before 1900 (and of these, well over 2,000 were built before 1875). These iconic buildings have become part of the identity of London.

Meanwhile, we are continuing to build new affordable homes, as at our historic housing estate in Pimlico, Peabody Avenue, where 56 affordable new homes, along with new community facilities and much improved landscaping, will be completed by February 2011.

Over 2008/09, we supported 340 people into jobs, gave 1,588 people access to training opportunities, and helped 186 vulnerable residents sustain their tenancies. In addition, 8,397 people benefitted from our health and well-being programmes and 548 young people benefited from our youth programmes.

How is Peabody different from other social landlords?

Stephen Howlett
Mr Howlett says their mission is make London a city of opportunity for all

When Peabody was founded, George Peabody set the template for social housing not just in the UK, but around the world. He understood that simply providing a roof over someone's head is not enough. In addition to bricks and mortar, there must be a social framework to support and encourage the development of people and communities.

This goes back to our mission to make London a city of opportunity for all by providing a good home, a real sense of purpose, and a strong feeling of belonging. I think this is what makes Peabody different and special.

Has Peabody noticed an increased demand for social housing during the recession?

With more people than ever unable to afford to buy or rent their own home, there is a huge demand for affordable rented housing. Traditionally the development of this housing has been subsidised by the production of housing for sale and shared ownership but this is no longer viable due to the stagnant housing market.

Meanwhile, our residents face financial pressures from rising levels of unemployment, the threat of fuel poverty, an increased cost of living and greater economic uncertainty.

We are tackling these effects in a number of ways. We provide benefit surgeries on a rolling basis in every borough we cover, for example, and we have a welfare services support team to provide general debt advice and advise residents about their entitlement to financial assistance. We have introduced a flexible tenure policy and we are reducing fuel poverty through energy efficiency advice and training.

How important is it for Peabody to live up to the legacy of George Peabody and to be an organisation that is worthy of carrying his name?

It's extremely important. Almost 150 years since George Peabody founded the organisation, we're about to launch our vision for continuing to foster thriving, sustainable Peabody communities into the 21st century. I think he would be proud.

An American philanthropist in London
06 Oct 09 |  History



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