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London councils launch challenge to London Plan update

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Nine London councils are launching a fresh legal challenge against London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to scrap affordable housing targets

Changes to the London Plan announced back in September, will see affordable rents for social housing set at 80 per cent of the market rate.

The move has been criticised for pricing local people out of London. The London Mayor’s decision to effectively raise social rents close to market levels was also against the recommendations of the planning inspector who said that boroughs should remain free to set their own rents.

The changes are now being challenged by Brent, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Royal Borough of Greenwich, Southwark and Tower Hamlets, who are asking the courts to revoke the Mayor’s amended plan.

Councils currently set social housing rents at a level that is affordable – typically less than 40 per cent of market levels.

James Murray, executive member for housing and development for Islington Council, which is leading the legal challenge, said: ‘Across London, we need new housing that people on low incomes can afford – and so we believe the Mayor of London’s plan to raise rents in new affordable housing to near-market levels is totally wrong for our city.

‘In Islington, we are building new council housing and we want to protect social rents. Like many other councils we believe we should be able to set rents that we know are genuinely affordable in our local area.

‘That’s why our nine boroughs are together challenging the Mayor of London over his attempt to impose higher rents on the people we represent.’

Previous story (04.09.13)

Changes to London Plan could price Londoners out of capital

Amendments to the London Plan have been slammed by assembly members for pushing up affordable rents

Approved yesterday, the changes will see affordable rents for social housing set at 80 per cent of the market rate - a move which critics claim will lead to many new properties intended for people on low incomes becoming prohibitively expensive.

London Assembly member Nicky Gavron branded the shake-up, which effectively removes the freedom for boroughs to set their own affordable rent levels, as a ‘flagrant disregard of the spirit of localism’.

Former deputy mayor Gavron said the move could ‘ghettoise the city and put intolerable strain on a range of already overburdened local services in outer London’.

London Assembly members voted on Tuesday (3 September) on whether to accept the proposed changes to the London Plan, exercising new powers brought in through the Localism Act which allows them to reject mayoral strategies.

Members voted 13-9 in favour of throwing out the mayor’s proposed changes, but as the Localism Act requires a two-thirds majority for the rejection of mayoral strategies the alterations to the London Plan were waved through.  

A spokesperson for the London Assembly members added: ‘We agree with the overwhelming majority of London Boroughs – Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat controlled – that were opposed to the revised policies on affordable housing on the basis that: they will make ‘affordable housing’ unaffordable for those who need it; they are very likely to lead to a reduction in the amount of family-sized affordable housing being built across Greater London; and they contradict the spirit of localism by preventing boroughs from setting affordable rent caps with regard to local circumstances and local need.’

The other changes to the plan are minor amendments bringing the plan in line with the NPPF.

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