Photograph by Chris King

News from Siân Berry: 33,000 London affordable homes lost in two years

13 September 2018

Missed planning targets have led to a shortfall of more than 33,000 affordable homes across London in two years, according to new research by Sian Berry AM, who is urging the Mayor to get tougher with boroughs.

Her new report, No-show homes, finds a shocking gap between the potential for affordable homes in developments being planned, based on the existing (Johnson Mayoralty) London Plan targets, and what boroughs have secured in the past two years. [1]

The 153,232 homes that have gained planning permission since January 2016 could have included 61,293 homes defined as affordable under current policies, which set a London-wide target of 40 per cent. 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.

The number of no-show homes varies greatly between different areas, with the highest number (2,281) missing from in Tower Hamlets, where large amounts of development is planned. This means the borough has a high potential to contribute to the need for affordable homes, and its failure to secure more than an average of 23 per cent affordable housing has a large impact. 

Sian Berry says:

With a large number of homes being planned across London, missing out on the affordable homes these developments should provide is a continuing betrayal. 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.

Where the most development is taking place, dropping below Mayor Johnson's 40 per cent target by even a few percent has a huge impact. 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 rents, 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 five per cent) were secured through planning – a shortfall of 29,241.

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. It found this hasn’t yet had a significant impact.

However, there are signs that the Mayor may be able to strengthen the policy's threshold beyond 35 per cent in future, and Sian is urging him to review the policy sooner than the planned date of 2021.

Notes to editors

[1] No-show homes: finding London's missing affordable homes, Sian Berry, Sep 2018
The data in the report comes from permissions reported in the London Development Database between Jan 2016 and Apr 2018. It includes a borough-by-borough breakdown of the homes missing across London, based on the potential for affordable homes through current development plans.

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