London Plan EiP

The Examination in Public (EiP) on the Mayor’s Revised Early Minor Alterations to the London Plan (REMA) is in its crucial day: debating the Mayor’s switch of emphasis, away from housing those in the greatest need (who may be able to afford social housing rent but not “affordable rent” at 65-80% of local market rents) towards those higher up the income scale.  The opposition is very strong indeed, coming from Borough Councils (!), many of whom have been doing good analytical work and whose views were powerfully put by officers (including some ex-students of ours) from Westminster, TH,  Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, plus a very wide range of tenants and residents groups.

Benson (GLA Hsg) the new system is shifting public spending burden from capital grant to revenue (HB).Tower Hamlets speaker particularly effective. Southwark arguing strongly to be permitted to have flexibility to use their own resources on schemes, to get rents low enough (especially for larger units) for their people to afford.

The essence of today’s argument is that the LP 2011 Plan was based on a 2008 Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) which is now out of date.  The Mayor undertook to do a fresh study in 2011 or 2012 but changed his mind and is only now starting to do a new one (a new needs assessment). However all the evidence is that the needs for social rented housing has increased:

  • The 2011 targets were not high enough;
  • The targets were anyway never nearly achieved;
  • Incomes are static or falling in real terms;
  • Market rents are rising fast;
  • Benefits are capped and the cap is biting harder and harder;

So the evidence all points in the direction of increasing the emphasis of social renting. The Mayor is proposing to move in the opposite directs, which runs counter to the evidence.

The Mayor’s policy of directing resources (his housing investment funds) away from social renting will give developers an incentive to ay more for sites because it will feed through the viability assessments (which the Mayor for some reason denies). Boroughs very keen to have the rent % set low to give certainty to developers and boroughs in setting S106 and CIL levels.  (Interesting that most of the Boroughs have been led to understand that Grant will never be provided for S106 schemes, while Alan Benson (GLA) is saying the that actually some grant is allocated to S106 schemes.)

LBTH now explaining that they have just approved a scheme for800 units with mixed social and affordable rents which is viable with no HCA grant, and would not have been if developer rent expectations had been any higher. (Reminder – best look at their written submission on the EiP site). The proposed changes would hobble boroughs in negotiating such (non-Grant) schemes.  Mayor going for miximim numbers.  (An aside – not said by anyone – total numbers would no doubt be maximised by removing all affordability requrements.) If they set rents for family units at 80% of local market rents in some parts of TH you would have to be a higher-rate taxpayer to afford it!

David Joyce (Camden) on behalf of ALBPO has sought meetings with GLA but the GLA was uncooperative and that’s why we are in the situation we are in today.  Borough evidence is being ignored.

(lunch break)

ED02 document of the Mayor sets out their view of the NPPF. // Mayor contends that Boroughs’ proposals would inhibit the achievement of the maximum output of “affordable” housing. Mayor needs the flexibility of some higher rents (near 80%) to cross-subsidise other units. ALBPO seeks to see that analysis, please.

This row goes on and on.  It is of course a massive issue and the inquiry is hobbled by shortage of time, by lack of data and by the fact that dwelling numbers etc are NOT on the agenda and can’t be discussed – even though it is in the interests of total output maximisation that the Mayor is trying to enforce the “affordable rent” category and dissolve the ‘social rent category into it – as though meeting the one were to meet the other.

Deborah Garvey from Shelter very lucid on the severity of need, the minute amounts of money which low income families will have for rent once the total-benefit cap comes in next year. Tens of thousands of London households will have to move in or from London once these caps apply if their Boroughs can’t point them to truly affordable housing.

LBTH wondering why income ranges can properly be mentioned in the Plan for “intermediate” housing but can’t be for “affordable” housing.  Westminster arguing that they can’t securely refuse a project based on assumption of 80% of market rent.  Can’t just turn round to a developer and say your whole calculation is unsound unless we have made our (lower-rent) criteria clear in our borough Plan.

Camden:  Mayor is /has been using his planning powers to restrict us in what we are able to do.  Niki Gavron (for the all-party Planning Cttee of Assembly) says they do NOT consider that “affordable” meets the same need as “social” housing. She also stresses the importance of social rent because of the security of tenure it offers – especially important for children.  Benson:  that has never been a planning issue, it’s a housing issue. Furthermore length of security of tenure independent of rent category.  Bowie: rubbish: the words are “rental arrangements” which must include tenure terms. Pat Turnbull (Hackney TRA) raising rents makes people even more likely to be forced out of their homes as benefit caps bite sooner.

Just Space (Elephant) stressing how the introduction of “AR” has enabled developer LendLease to switch their earlier undertakings for 50% affordable (then defined as 50:50 social rent and intermediate) to a new proposal in which hardly any units would be at social rent levels – just the largest units – while the rest of the units would be at the new AR levels. Thus a great reduction in affordability.  There is NOT any increase in the total number of units to be provided in any sense of the term “affordable”.

M.E. said, for KXRLG, that the pressures from RTB and benefit changes are now so strong in such areas that the overwhelming prioity is maximising social rental stock.  If there was ever any merit to the argument that large council estates need somehow diluting with higher-income people, there no longer is – because of the pressures and because of the dilution already caused as the unplanned outcome of the RTB.

Niki Gavron, for the Assembly, reporting that RSLs had told the Committee that they would hardly be building any family-size units in inner London 11 boroughs.  How very concerned the Assembly is about this.


Author: Editors


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