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Architects support Livingstone’s 50% affordable housing pledge

Architects have backed London mayoral hopeful Ken Livingstone’s promise to restore the requirement for half of all new housing in the capital to be affordable

The Labour candidate’s election manifesto announces plans to restore the 50 per cent affordable housing target which was abandoned by current mayor Boris Johnson.

The manifesto says: ‘No borough should be able to get away with failing to build affordable homes for its residents.

‘I will again expect 50 per cent of homes built in London to be affordable and will move as rapidly as possible towards ensuring that at least one third of new homes are for social rent. I will also set an ambitious target for family homes.’

Simon Allford of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris welcomed the policy.

‘Yes we need more homes,’ he said, adding: ‘but they need to be affordable to a wider range of people and more than the narrow band that currently meet the “affordable” criteria.’

However he warned a 50 per cent target could slow development and urged the prospective mayor to ‘throw in government land at a discount’ and ‘encourage increased density whilst raising space standards’.

He added: ‘Rigid use class orders, fear of development volume and current regulations on overlooking are what’s holding housing back.’

Chris Williamson of Weston Williamson said: ‘Like many of Ken Livingstone’s ideas it is a very laudable aim but many developers will find it difficult to achieve.’

Livingstone’s manifesto also pledged to make it easier for expanding churches to win planning, to deny planning permission for new waste incinerators, to provide £5,000 grants for neighbourhood planning and to oppose the Thames Estuary airport.

He also promised ‘tough planning regulations’ on private developments to ensure such schemes ‘reflect the needs of all Londoners, not just the very wealthy’.

Further policies include restoring the 50 per cent of market rents ceiling for affordable housing, using GLA land assets to build more homes and investigating innovative ways of financing projects.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Re your story about Ken and his 50/50 affordable housing pledge: well, I am sure everybody wants to see more affordable housing in London, but if Ken wants to resuscitate his moribund 50/50 formula (presumably as on-site provision) he needs to say how this will be funded. We currently have a scheme in the planning stages where the best bid from an RSL for the (35%) affordable element will not even pay for the construction costs of that element, much less the land costs, funding costs, fees and all the rest. The client is now looking at other uses for the site. There must be many stories like this across London.

    It would be far better if local authorities were to take a more pro-active role in procuring affordable housing by pushing developers for robust contribution payments that could be ring-fenced and used for off-site affordable developments. Where a local authority would struggle to identify such sites within its boundary (even though many of them have under utilised land – and how about an audit of those?) they could link up with adjacent local authorities. Better still, they could all link up together and really get something moving. Hang on, hasn’t that been done before? Oh, yes, the old LCC, and their often magnificent legacy is all around us.

    With all the so-called advantages of modern life, and all the technology that make everything so much easier for everybody, why is it that a society coming out of a devastating war (in fact, two of them, if one looks back at the public housing developments of the 1920’s and 1930’s) could build so much public housing, and we can build virtually none?

    An important part of that answer, it seems to me, is that local government has abandoned its obligation to lead in the procurement of public housing, and has assumed that by drafting planning policies about public housing, the housing will subsequently magically appear. To a large extent, it hasn’t and, going forward, it won’t. It is time for local authorities to look beyond their own policies and actively engage in how they can be implemented, and that goes for Ken, and Boris, too.

    Alan Power

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Re your story about Ken and his 50/50 affordable housing pledge: well, I am sure everybody wants to see more affordable housing in London, but if Ken wants to resuscitate his moribund 50/50 formula (presumably as on-site provision) he needs to say how this will be funded. We currently have a scheme in the planning stages where the best bid from an RSL for the (35%) affordable element will not even pay for the construction costs of that element, much less the land costs, funding costs, fees and all the rest. The client is now looking at other uses for the site. There must be many stories like this across London.

    It would be far better if local authorities were to take a more pro-active role in procuring affordable housing by pushing developers for robust contribution payments that could be ring-fenced and used for off-site affordable developments. Where a local authority would struggle to identify such sites within its boundary (even though many of them have under utilised land – and how about an audit of those?) they could link up with adjacent local authorities. Better still, they could all link up together and really get something moving. Hang on, hasn’t that been done before? Oh, yes, the old LCC, and their often magnificent legacy is all around us.

    With all the so-called advantages of modern life, and all the technology that make everything so much easier for everybody, why is it that a society coming out of a devastating war (in fact, two of them, if one looks back at the public housing developments of the 1920’s and 1930’s) could build so much public housing, and we can build virtually none?

    An important part of that answer, it seems to me, is that local government has abandoned its obligation to lead in the procurement of public housing, and has assumed that by drafting planning policies about public housing, the housing will subsequently magically appear. To a large extent, it hasn’t and, going forward, it won’t. It is time for local authorities to look beyond their own policies and actively engage in how they can be implemented, and that goes for Ken, and Boris, too.

    Alan Power

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Warren Whyte

    As with so much of Ken's rhetoric over last few weeks, the 50/50 affordability split without any clue to its funding is a pointless manifesto claim.

    If the screws are turned on the developer to provide more, along with CIL and other S106 obligations, then that means the remaining sale dwellings will be priced out reach of even more potential home buyers who will then be wanting to be on the housing waiting list, or costing more for buy-to-let investors who will pass on with higher private rents.

    The only winners will be the planners and legal advisers discussing viability reports; and investment in quality architecture, community infrastructure and a good public realm will inevitably suffer.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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