More than 600 promised affordable homes not built, report shows
PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 September 2018
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A total of 673 affordable homes weren’t built when they should have been, a report has shown.
The homes shortfall was blamed on missed planning targets by the Green Party London Assembly member Sian Berry who revealed the figures.
Ms Berry exposed the gap by comparing the number of homes priced at up to 80 per cent of market rent secured by the council in the last two years to a 40 per cent target set by former London mayor Boris Johnson.
“Missing out on the affordable homes that developments should provide is a continuing betrayal.
“Every time developments that fail on affordability targets are signed off, people who need homes at reasonable rents lose out,” Ms Berry said.
The City Hall politician claimed she had found hundreds of promised homes in every London borough that were replaced when developments were signed off by luxury flats no one earning a normal wage could afford.
The report’s authors revealed a further shortfall of 1,252 homes when they compared the number of affordable dwellings in Havering to the need for them in the borough over the same period.
A Havering Council spokesman said: “All affordable housing offers are carefully reviewed to ensure that the maximum amount of affordable housing is secured.
“The delivery of affordable homes isn’t always within our gift. It is also dependent upon a development’s financial viability.”
The council was embarking on one of the most ambitious home building and regeneration strategies in London, he said.
“We aim to provide more genuinely affordable homes and have implemented a new strategic planning committee and pre-application advice process to speed up the application process,” he said.
But leader of the Residents’ Group Cllr Ray Morgon said the greatest concern facing Havering wasn’t the number of affordable homes built but the threat of over-development from building targets imposed by central government and London mayor Sadiq Khan.
“There is no guarantee that there will be additional people to provide services to people coming into the borough. That’s the bigger problem. I’m not sure anybody is talking about that seriously,” Cllr Morgon said.
He warned that pressure on Queens Hospital, Romford, and cuts in police numbers threatened people’s quality of life.
He called for a council tax hike with the extra money raised ring-fenced for policing.
The leader of the Independent Residents Group Cllr Jeffrey Tucker criticised the council’s house bidding system.
Cllr Tucker said: “I don’t believe affordable houses are affordable for many residents.
“Even if you are lucky to be on the council’s list with the other 2,182 residents and families bidding for a council property the odds of being successful are very slim unless you can be awarded with a direct offer from council officers.”
He claimed that 70 per cent of council houses were awarded in this way and that in the first three months of the new council administration only 30pc out of 35 properties were awarded.
“A more democratic system should be set up with 100pc of council housing awarded on the bidding system,” he said.
Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Group leader Cllr Clarence Barrett blamed developers: “For too long they have avoided their obligation to provide affordable housing by exploiting viability assessments which claim that profit margins would be affected by meeting affordable homes targets.
“The council needs to ensure that viability assessments stand up to robust scrutiny and demonstrate much greater transparency.”
Cllr Barrett added that giving council and housing association tenants the right to buy homes had seen social housing stock reduced, adding to pressures.
Since April 2012 605 social homes had been sold at a discount while only 125 had been built to replace them, he said.
“A further limitation set by the government is a strict ceiling on how much councils can borrow for house building.
“Greater freedom here would allow greater capacity to deliver the quality social housing stock which our residents need and deserve,” Cllr Barrett said.