Monday, 26 January 2015

Council rejects affordable homes programme

A London council has rubber stamped its rejection of the £1.8 billion affordable homes programme and pledged £2.5 million of its own money for housing associations to build social homes.

James Murray, executive member for housing at Islington Council, yesterday said the authority had agreed to hand capital over to housing associations that will help build 61 social homes in the borough over the next two years.

The cabinet agreed in its planning policy towards the end of last month it would not adopt the government’s affordable rent strategy. It is the only London borough to reject the model, which gives limited grant for homes to be let at up to 80 per cent of market rent.

The plans are now with the planning inspectorate and could be disputed as it is understood the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is unhappy about the council’s position.

Mr Murray told a conference organised by social enterprise Home Connections in London yesterday that affordable rent was not the ‘right product’ for Islington Council: ‘We need affordable accommodation so people can live in a manageable commuting distance from London.’

The money for the social homes would come from the ‘new homes bonus and other sources’, Mr Murray said.

The council has also agreed to sell its own land at discounted prices to a group of 10 housing associations to build affordable homes in Islington.

Mr Murray also told the conference officers had, anecdotally, experienced people refusing housing association homes because they are worried about not being able to afford the rent.

‘We are already hearing some housing association properties are hard to let,’ he said. ‘People are so concerned [about not being able to pay rent] that people are reluctant to move and reluctant to move into new homes even if they suit their needs.’

He suggested people’s social mobility was being affected by this and families preferred to stay in overcrowded homes rather than risk not being able to afford rent in a new property.

Islington Council’s executive also decided on Tuesday this week to guarantee rents for people who downsize. If someone has lived in a property for years their rent is likely to not have risen by much, Mr Murray explained, but if they move into a new property it will be a new target rent – so could be more, even if the new property is smaller.

The council has guaranteed the rent for people who downsize to its properties will not increase. It is now going to talk to housing associations to try to persuade them to do the same.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Christopher Dale

    Boris is unhappy is he? Not as unhappy as a low paid worker trying to pay 80% of market rent and being told it's affordable would be. Good on Islington for rejecting this deeply flawed model.

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  • The question then is, if they can reject it, why didn't others?

    Also, if they can implement a living wage at their council during a recession, why can't other boroughs?

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  • Christopher Dale

    A lack of political will or backbone for one thing mrkfm.

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  • Joe Halewood

    Using same methodology as NAO used this week on 'affordable rent' this appears to be an additional £1.28m investment that will save a minimum £7m to the HB bill in monetary terms

    Though not what the Tories imagined that Localism would produce!

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  • Key questions are (1) how many social homes are we talking about, (2) what happens when Islington runs out of its own land to sell, and (3) wouldn't a council that was concerned about keeping housing affordable get rid of its NIMBY-pleasing height-limit on new build?

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  • Tell you what "JJ", if Arsenal FC wanted to plonk a 26-storey block (for students btw, not "affordable" and with no council nomination rights that I'm aware of) at the bottom of your garden, you'd be grateful for any kind of height limit. Hasn't stopped the football club (a) appealing the refusal and (b) sticking in a 16 storey alternative just in case, mind you.

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  • Dear bizarreloverectangle, your objection to one scheme hardly justifies a borough-wide height limit, does it?

    As it happens though, I know the scheme you mean, and it's not "at the bottom of your garden", unless your garden happens to include a large railway viaduct.

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  • I don't have to justify my comment to you, but anyhow...

    As my garden abuts the railway arch, and directly faces the proposed development, which at 78m is over three times the height of the railway viaduct and according to the plans submitted by Arsenal's development partner the tower would be approx 60m away from my house, I would suggest that it is indeed "at the bottom of my garden" both physically and metaphorically.

    Or do you need a photo?

    Please don't imply that I use my posts to lie or exaggerate, it's not classy.

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  • 61 homes over 2 years! well done Islington, housing crisis solved. An idiotic decision by ideologues intent on keeping the moral high ground rather than thinking about the people in the borough they are meant to serve. There is a middle way, they could have accepted rents at well below 80%, still within all LHA caps and recieved grant for building.

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  • mrkfm, Southwark has alro introduced the London living wage for anyone working for the council either directly, through an agency or via a contractor.

    I know of one community organisation in Southwark took the decision to ensure all its workers were on the living wage and it is currently one of the conditions for a tender for providing catering services in one of its parks.

    So Islington is not the only one.

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