Posted by: Carl Brown03/08/2012
The future of Walthamstow dog track has been in the news again this week.
Rarely has one development been the focus of so much media coverage - not just in Inside Housing, but in the local and national press as well.
However, the saga is important, not least because it pits a coalition government heavyweight figure, Iain Duncan Smith, against one of the largest housing associations in the country.
In the latest twist, IDS, pandering to a group of campaigners called Save Our Stow, is now threatening to contact Eric Pickles and ‘question L&Q’s ‘right to be a social housing provider’, if they don’t discuss the sale of their land to a millionaire.
Aside from the fact that Mr Pickles has absolutely no say in the de-registering of housing associations, Mr Duncan Smith’s ‘threat’ is ludicrous.
The only possible criteria for de-registration that could be relevant is a contravention of a requirement to ‘provide or intend to provide’ housing for below market rent.
Waltham Forest Council has allowed L&Q to only offer 60 homes for affordable rent on the 294-home Walthamstow site due to viability concerns. There is a case for arguing the council should have done more to insist on more lower-cost housing.
However the idea that L&Q is not providing affordable housing doesn’t stack up. The organisation plans to build 1,980 new homes through the government’s affordable homes programme of which 1,196 - or 60 per cent - is for affordable rent. Yes, affordable rent is not social rent, but the association, like every other, is having to look at engaging in more risky behaviour to cross-subsidise low-cost housing.
But that is the world we now live in, and the world that Iain Duncan Smith’s government has created.
Mr Duncan Smith’s government has slashed capital grant, ended all grant support for new social homes and made it very clear it expects associations to take on more risk and generate more cross-subsidy themselves. If L&Q and others are building schemes with no social rented homes and more homes for sale it is doing what the government expects them to. It is now very difficult, particularly in London, for organisations to provide social rented homes as they will receive no grant for doing so.
Mr Duncan Smith, in an attempt to make it look like he is doing something for those who want dog racing back, has again made himself look a hypocrite - and on this occasion a bit of a misguided bully.
From Housing matters
Carl Brown looks at regulation, training, board members, pay and a host of other issues that impact the day to day running of social landlords