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Affordable home target of only 25% is "scandalously low"– Tom Copley AM

Property Week magazine has today reported that the Mayor of London is planning to fix a target of 25% for affordable homes in the capital’s key housing zones and opportunity areas. If introduced, the target would effectively prevent local authorities from being able to negotiate up the number of affordable homes on a development above the 25% threshold.

If true the target would be far lower than the targets currently demanded by boroughs. Labour’s London Assembly Housing Spokesperson Tom Copley AM has written to the Mayor demanding answers and urging him to adopt far more ambitious targets for affordable housing provision.

Commenting on the Property Week report, Labour’s London Assembly Housing Spokesperson Tom Copley AM said:

“For eight years Boris Johnson has failed to deliver the affordable homes we need, now it appears he is trying to tie the hands of a future Mayor by setting a scandalously low target for affordable housing on major development sites. If true, not only would it stack the deck in developers favour, it would let them off the hook from their duty to provide the optimum number of affordable homes.

“Boris Johnson is possibly the only person in the capital who thinks that it’s acceptable for three-quarters of new homes to be unaffordable. We should be tougher in our scrutiny of viability assessments and pushing to get as many affordable homes as possible. Instead the Mayor seems set on giving developers a free pass in return for a token number of affordable homes.

“A key driver for Housing Zones was to increase affordable housing provision, you won’t do that by tying the hands of local authorities. The capital’s housing crisis is growing by the day. Londoners are crying out for homes that they can actually afford to live in, not more investment opportunities for property speculators and oligarchs.”

ENDS

Notes 

-       The Property Week article, Boris Johnson mulls fixed affordable housing target, is available here.

-       The text of the letter to the Mayor from Tom Copley AM is available below:

Dear Boris

I am very concerned about a report in today’s Property Week which suggested you plan to impose fixed affordable housing targets of just 25% on major housing sites in London.

Whilst the policy of setting fixed affordable housing targets for Housing Zones and Opportunity Areas is a good one, particularly when used with contingent obligations, the idea this should be set at only 25% is deeply flawed to say the least.

For too long developers have been gaming the system by using viability assessments that falsely claim they are unable to provide affordable housing. Fixed targets would address this problem by requiring developers to design proposals which will be viable whilst providing an adequate level of affordable housing. The targets could serve as minima, with contingent obligations used to secure even more affordable housing when it becomes clear that a development is profitable enough to support it.

Ambitious targets will provide developers with greater clarity on expectations, drive down land values, and help London to secure more of the affordable housing it desperately needs. Once set, low target would remove the ability of boroughs to fight for more affordable homes and only exacerbate the capital’s already ingrained housing crisis.

The current public drafting of your Housing SPG makes clear that it is for the boroughs, not the GLA, to set the fixed targets based on local need and estimates of site viability. This should mean that, based on its particulars, each site should be given a different target based on local conditions, not subject to a one-size-fits-all target that takes no account of the specific conditions of the area.

More broadly, it would be huge missed opportunity to set such a scandalously low target for affordable housing. If the report is accurate, not only would your plan stack the deck in developers favour, it would let them off the hook from their duty to provide the optimal number of affordable homes.

I hope you will be able to write back and assure me that you have no plans to impose such a low fixed affordable housing target, but will rather allow boroughs to establish their own targets based on an understanding of local conditions. Anything less would only serve to exacerbate the capital’s housing crisis and worsen the legacy you hand over to your successor in nine months’ time. 

Yours sincerely

 

Tom Copley AM

Labour’s London Assembly Housing Spokesperson

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