The next Mayor of London should set a minimum target for affordable homes

27th April, 2015 4:36 pm

The Old Post Office site in Harrow in the heart of my constituency will not be well known to many LabourList readers, yet the debate about its future encapsulates the challenge about how to secure more affordable housing in our city.

London_Thames_Sunset_panorama_-_Feb_2008

This development in the centre of Harrow is set to see very few affordable homes out of a planned 300-plus flats. Quite apart from the wider planning and design issues, the lack of a significant proportion of these homes being genuinely affordable is, not surprisingly, very contentious. Boris’ refusal to insist on any basic minimum proportion of affordable homes is a critical factor in London’s eve’ growing shortage of affordable homes.

A Mayoral minimum requirement for affordable homes would strengthen the hand of local Councils in their negotiations with housing developers and help to give borough residents more of a chance to buy properties being built in the area.

The next Mayor of London should set an increasing minimum target for affordable homes in new housing developments. 15% in a Mayor’s first year, 25% in their second year, 35% in year 3, 40% in year 4 with 50% being the target for each of a new Mayor’s second term.

Boris scrapped the requirement Ken Livingstone had put in place for housing developers to build a certain percentage of homes as lower cost or ‘affordable’ homes. Indeed, when Boris took over this percentage had risen to 50%.

A whole series of other big developments across London have little or no housing which Londoners on modest salaries – the salaries earned by police officers, nurses or soldiers for example – could afford. For example, the plan to construct 1314 homes in the TfL-owned site of the former Earls Court exhibition centre contained no affordable homes. The Battersea Power Station development will see only 600 properties out of the expected 3,500 to be affordable, and Boris has backed Royal Mail’s plans for just 12% affordable housing on the Mount Pleasant site.

A slowly rising affordable housing requirement for developers will help them to plan long term, incentivise them to start developments earlier, and deliver more of the genuinely affordable homes London desperately needs.

The London Mayor has a series of planning powers enabling him or her to enforce a rising minimum percentage of genuinely affordable homes, be they homes for rent, shared ownership, or so called intermediate rent homes.

A new Mayor would expect Councils to enforce the minimum requirement in their dealings with housing developers seeking planning permission under so-called Section 106 commitments.

London’s housing crisis is now so severe that business leaders are worried it is affecting the capital’s competitiveness with a significant number of young to middle aged people willing to contemplate leaving the capital if house prices and rental costs continue to rise.

There are other measures which a future Mayor will need to introduce to reverse London’s housing crisis but a rising target for a minimum percentage of affordable homes is one important first step to take.

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  • swatnan

    I was rather hoping that Gareth would have made a stronger plea for more co-operative housing schemes as a solution to the endemic shortage of affordable housing and the rising costs of London homes, and the knock on effect on renting in the private sector. And Community Land Trusts. At least a quarter of the Homes must be affordable, otherwise Planning Committees should turn down the Applications.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    I have not ever seen defined with clarity and rigour what “affordable” actually means. Even on a 4 times loan to salary ratio for a mortgage, for the average wage of about £26,500 it means that the mortgage will not be that much more than £100,000, and that seems hugely less than houses cost in London. Even four times loan to salary, a ratio that itself contains dangers of over-borrowing.

    A neighbour’s daughter has only really a single option: she commutes 2 hours each way to central London, but it is still cheaper for her to rent a room in a house in Huntingdon and buy her train travel while she saves. She seems quite cheerful, a fact that I find both uplifting for her as an individual, and depressing for her generation. But she could not do that if she had a school age child, or a caring responsibility.

  • Len B

    Get one of our world class attract partnerships to design a middle rise block with fifty flats in it and build a thousand of them across London. And then with 50,000 new affordable homes or social housing you will have solved around 15% of London’s housing shortage.

    That Gareth is the scale of the problem. You are not even scratching the surface, not even keeping pace with its rate of expansion with your proposals.

  • MonkeyBot5000

    …Londoners on modest salaries – the salaries earned by police officers…

    They start on around the median so they already earn more than half the population and after initial training, that goes up by £2.5k. It’s the guy cleaning their floors for minimum wage we need to worry about.

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