BARRATT HOLMES, our housing correspondent, reports on the likely rents for the ‘affordable’ flats in the towers to be built over the top of a shopping mall car park
It is a rarely mentioned – by everyone except Sadiq Khan – that the present Mayor of London is the son of a bus driver. Young Sadiq was brought up in a family flat in social housing on a Tooting estate.
Any south London bus driver looking for a flat in central Croydon where they can raise their family could soon be looking at having to pay £1,157 per month in rent. This is what is described as a “London Living Rent”.
That’s the unhappy consequence of a decision announced by Mayor Khan last night, when he gave approval for plans from Hammerson and Westfield for the redevelopment of the centre of Croydon, including 967 new homes. The Mayor’s approval is likely to make it almost impossible for him to impose more demanding quotas of affordable housing on property developers elsewhere in the capital.
Croydon was the first real test of the Mayor’s recently announced policy, which was to insist that at least 35 per cent of all new housing developments should be “affordable”.
But with Croydon’s long-delayed Hammersfield project, the Mayor has agreed that only 20 per cent of the 967 new homes need to fit that criteria. That’s because the multi-billion-dollar international developers snivelled that their £1.4billion scheme would not make them big enough profits if they were forced to provide an additional 140 flats at rents below the market rate.
In a less-well-published portion of the Mayor’s announcement last night, it said, “The level of affordable housing offered in the application was supported by a viability assessment. This was scrutinised City Hall planners, who concluded this was the maximum amount which could be delivered while ensuring the project remained financially viable.”
To be fair to Khan, his Labour colleagues in Croydon Town Hall have done him no favours, since their own house-building scheme, Brick by Brick, using publicly owned land and public funding, is struggling to get above 36 per cent affordable. Tony Newman and Alison Butler, the Blairites who control Croydon Council, initially set a target of 50 per cent affordable among the 1,000 homes being built through their controversial scheme.
With the Westfield-Hammerson “Croydon Partnership”, according to City Hall’s announcement, “The application to redevelop the Whitgift Centre includes the delivery of up to 967 new build-to-rent homes, of which a minimum of 20 per cent will be provided at below market-rent levels – the majority of which will be for London Living Rent (based on renters paying one-third of average local incomes).”
That should mean, according to 2018 figures provided by City Hall (given that by the time the development is finished, 2022 figures are likely to be in force), a London Living Rent one-bed flat in the Hammersfield development will have a rent of £947 per month. Two-bedroomed flats will cost tenants £1,052 per month, while any three-bed flats made available under such a scheme would be rented out at £1,157.
Which could be a bit of a stretch for the average Croydon bus driver and their family.
However, in contrast, across the Wellesley Road from the Whitgift Centre, there’s a three-bed “luxury apartment” in the Saffron Square tower available this month on the private rental market for annual rent of £62,400 – a cool £5,200 per month.
It was notable that Khan and City Hall has also started spouting the empty stat that the shopping mall “will create 7,000 jobs”, a mantra of developers, local politicians of both hues and the land-owners, the Whitgift Foundation, though which has never been supported with any evidence of how, or what sort of jobs these might be. When first announced, the figure offered then was 5,000… 7,000 must be, in some way, viewed as more impressive.
“Today marks a crucial step forward in the regeneration of Croydon town centre,” Khan is supposed to have said, presumably reading from a script carefully provided for him by Westfield.
“This development will play a key role in unlocking the borough’s potential and is set to deliver huge economic benefits to residents and businesses in the borough. As well as the creation of 7,000 jobs and the delivery of almost 1,000 new homes, it will also attract many visitors to its brand-new leisure facilities and public spaces. I’m confident the benefits of this scheme will be felt for generations to come.”
And as for Croydon Council, Newman – 44 months into a 48-month administration – tried to claim that he is “actually making this exciting scheme happen”, while Butler said, “Today’s green light brings us a step closer to the works getting under way.”
For context: the land-owners and developers have been promising to get works under way for six long years now. Demolition work will not begin before 2019, and the finished shopping centre will not be open for business before 2022.
Compared to the other two Westfield shopping centres in London – one in White City and the other in Stratford – Croydon’s will be the smallest. The flagship tenant announced so far is a large Marks and Spencer store.
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