Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Boris rejects affordable rent controls

Boris Johnson has rejected an independent recommendation to alter the London Plan to make it easier for councils to control affordable rent levels.

A government-appointed expert had asked for the deletion of two key sections of the document which detail the capital’s development strategy.

The paragraphs in question were intended to exclude London boroughs from setting their own caps for affordable rent and stop councils from setting rent targets in their planning frameworks.

However, this week the mayor said he was not accepting the request as such a move would likely lead to widespread confusion and delay in the delivery of new affordable housing.

Mr Johnson added that removing the sections would be inconsistent with national policy and undermine implementation of other mayoral planning and housing policy.

The inspector’s report, compiled to examine recent revisions by Mr Johnson, said: ‘Given the substantial influence he holds through his housing powers, I see no need for the mayor to include text that specifically directs boroughs how to meet their needs in accordance with the [national planning policy framework].’

It added that ‘the removal of a prohibition on rent caps does not provide any general endorsement of their acceptability [as] any local policies would have to be justified by an adequate evidence base’.

However, Mr Johnson responded that the inspector’s report gave ‘insufficient weight… to the effects on development of local planning authorities setting rent caps at levels which would not be supported by the level of subsidy available’.

Under the affordable homes programme, social landlords can charge rents at up to 80 per cent of market rent in return for development grant. The average rent level in London for homes built under the programme will be around 65 per cent, according to the London mayor.

Nine councils criticised the inclusion of the sections in a consultation response last summer, saying that the government’s new affordable rent product is too prescriptive and does not allow them to meet the needs of their area.

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