Over 4,000 Affordable Homes 'Go Missing' in Wandsworth Borough

Greens say Mayor should put pressure on Council to meet assessed need for housing

A new report by the Green Party on Housing in London claims that over four thousand affordable homes are ‘missing’ from the borough of Wandsworth since 2016.

The study, authored by London Assembly member Sian Berry, looks at the assessed need across the capital based on the 2017 Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) which concluded that between 2016 to 2041, developments should be delivering 65 per cent of new homes at affordable tenures. Two thirds of these should be at truly affordable. Already by this measure Wandsworth is 4,151 short of the homes needed, the fifth highest total in the capital behind only Tower Hamlets, Newham, Ealing and Barnet.

If looked at relative to the London Plan policy target of 40% which was set by Boris Johnson, since 2016 Wandsworth borough is 1,876 homes short which is the fourth highest number for any Council in London.

The 153,232 homes that have gained planning permission since January 2016 could have included 61,293 homes defined as affordable if the 40% target was met. Instead, just 27,869 affordable homes have been secured by planning agreements, which has resulted in 33,424 ‘missing’ affordable homes across London in just over two years. The gap between these planning decisions and the need assessed by the SHMA is even bigger, with 71,732 affordable homes missing in two years. With 'affordable' defined by the 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.

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.”

She urged Mayor Sadiq Khan to put more pressure on boroughs like Wandsworth which are handling larger numbers of planning applications, as these are where the most affordable homes are going missing.

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 concluded this hasn’t yet had a significant impact.

A council spokesman said, "Last year Wandsworth delivered the second highest number of affordable homes across all 33 London boroughs and has just unveiled its own £150 million housebuilding scheme that will deliver 1,000 new low incomes homes of which 60 per cent will be for social rent and low cost shared ownership.

"This is in addition to the more than 3,000 new affordable homes we are building on the Alton estate in Roehampton, and the Winstanley and York Road estates in Battersea as part of their respective regeneration schemes.

"In terms of delivery in relation to the newly adopted London Plan, for the first two years of the plan we have seen 941 affordable homes completed against an adopted target of 294 per annum which is 160% delivery compared to target. Over the 15 year team of the plan our low cost homes delivery is on course to achieve 141% of our new build social rent targets and 190% of our intermediate and shared ownership targets.

"Perhaps this is why not so long ago Mayor Sadiq Khan referred to Wandsworth as 'a fantastic example' of local authority housebuilding.

"We are certainly playing a full role in delivering the low costs homes that Londoners need."

September 19, 2018