Since 2016, less than half of the number of affordable homes have been delivered by developers in Croydon than are required under the Mayor of London’s 40 per cent planning policy targets.
That’s according to research carried out by Green Party London Assembly Member Sian Berry.
Across the whole of the capital over the past two years, Berry reckons that missed planning targets have led to a shortfall of 33,000 affordable homes that have not been built.
In Croydon, where the number of affordable homes built, based on planning permissions granted, should have been 2,450, the actual number delivered is 1,039. That is just 17 per cent of homes that are “affordable”.
Berry describes this as “a shocking gap” between planned targets and what boroughs have secured in the past two years.
The 40 per cent of new homes to be “affordable” in all developments was the policy laid down by the previous Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
Too often though, when the chips are down with developers, the local authority’s planners, and even City Hall cave in over “viability” demands. One recent example in Croydon is the Westfield development, being proposed by The Croydon Partnership of Hammerson and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.
When their latest proposals for the £1.4billion town centre redevelopment was called in by the Mayor’s office for approval, Sadiq Khan agreed to the developers’ demands and granted permission for them to provide just 20 per cent “affordable” flats among the 967 they intend to build.
Oh, and that weasel use of the word “affordable”? The rents for these so-called “affordable” flats in the five tower blocks to be built along Wellesley Road is reckoned to be at least £1,150 per month.
And even when local authorities, even Labour-run councils such as Croydon, embark on their own house-building programmes, they come up short of the 40 per cent affordability targets.
Croydon Council set up Brick by Brick, its housing developer, in 2015. So far, Brick by Brick has built not a single new home.
But it does have a target, set by the council, that 50 per cent of the homes it builds should be affordable. Yet from all the planning permissions granted so far, according to Brick by Brick’s own figures fewer than 400 of the approximately 1,000 homes to be developed will be “affordable”. Very few of those will be for rental. None are to be for social rent, or what was once called “council homes”.
Overall across London, according to Berry’s research, the 153,232 homes that have gained planning permission since January 2016 could have included 61,293 homes defined as affordable under current policies.
Instead, just 27,869 affordable homes have been secured by planning agreements, which means 33,424 missing affordable homes across London in just over two years.
Berry calls these “no-show homes”.
“With a large number of homes being planned across London, missing out on the affordable homes these developments should provide is a continuing betrayal,” Berry said.
“In just two years people who could fill a small town are being deprived of the chance to rent a home they can afford. I found hundreds of no-show homes in every borough, promised by policy but replaced when developments are signed off by luxury flats no one on a normal wage could possibly own.
“Every time developments that fail on affordability targets are signed off by councils, Londoners who need homes at reasonable rents lose out. The arguments about the housing crisis usually focus just on building more homes overall – but that isn’t the answer if what is being built ends up as luxury flats beyond reach for most Londoners.
“While his new London Plan is being developed, Mayor Khan must do more to put pressure on the areas handling larger numbers of planning applications, as these are where the most affordable homes are going missing.”
With “affordable” defined by the Johnson London Plan at up to 80 per cent of market sales value or rents, in the capital, social housing is often the only truly affordable housing being provided in new developments. Current policy asks for 24 per cent of new homes to be at social rent, but the report found that only 7,451 (less than 5 per cent) were secured through planning – a shortfall of 29,241.
According to Berry, the gap between these planning decisions and what London actually needs is even bigger, with 71,732 affordable homes missing in two years. The evidence base for the new draft London Plan calculates that in the same period London needed 99,601 of these homes.
The report also looked at whether Mayor Khan’s new “fast track” supplementary planning policy is starting to have an effect. This came into force in August 2017, and offers developers who agree to provide 35 per cent affordable homes a route to planning permission that avoids viability assessments.
Berry’s report found that this hasn’t yet had a significant impact.
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