Homes for Londoners - exec briefing
In early November CIH welcomed Jamie Ratcliffe, Assistant Director for Housing at the Greater London Authority, to talk to members about Homes for Londoners. We thought our members would be particularly interested in this subject so made sure we could report back. Below are some of the key areas covered in a lively session.
The Housing Minister is in favour of tailored housing policy for different places, including London and a new London Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) is now underway. hBuild to Rent is broadly supported and Housing associations are in a position to take advantages of opportunities if the number of homes for sale goes down. Policies will cover investment, higher levels of affordable housing, and use of public land. The government is hinting that the White Paper will link closely with devolution and the Mayor will be asking for more powers and autonomy for London.
The Mayor wants 50% of new homes to be genuinely affordable. This is a big change from the previous Mayor who was unlikely to “call in” development plans with low levels of affordable housing. We are moving into a climate in which affordable housing matter. New Supplementary Planning Guidance will be published later this year. It will create greater certainty. If affordability is set at a certain level, developers who build above this level will get an “easier ride”. Review mechanisms will be put in place so that developers who produce affordable housing below the threshold will get a “tough time”. Viability assessments will be scrutinised closely.
“Affordable Housing” may have become a toxic term. The question is often asked: “Affordable for whom?” The Mayor wants to address this. There will be three definite products:
o Social Rent. Social Rent will be only for those who are on very low incomes.
o Low Cost Home Ownership
o The new product of the London Living Rent – this will compose a third of average local incomes. This intermediate rental product will be available for working households and may include a number of households who are earning higher than the average.
The Mayor plans to negotiate a good deal for public investment for London housing however the level of funding available is unlikely to be “game-changing.” The aim is to make it as easy as possible for partners to access grant.
There is a particular focus on land owned by Transport for London and there is considerable capacity in air space over stations, such as Bermondsey on the Jubilee Line.
Build to Rent
Build to Rent is seen as important for increasing housing supply if the 'For Sale' market decreases. It is not clear at present how quickly Build to Rent can deliver large scale market rent schemes onto the market. However, the homes in the market rent schemes on the Olympic Village development were snapped up very quickly. In terms of affordability, Build to Rent schemes have so far been in the upper quartile of prices. The affordability issue needs to be looked at. A design guide for Build to Rent is being planned. This will cover issues such as regulations on dual aspects.
Homes for Londoners
The Homes for Londoners Board will be chaired by the Mayor. Homes for Londoners members will also include Transport for London and viability experts are being recruited for Homes for Londoners.
The Private Rented Sector
The private rented sector has seen a growth across all income groups and there has been a 50% growth in the number of children in the private rented sector. This has implications for a deregulated sector with little security of tenure - needing to move schools can be very disruptive for children. However, the Mayor has few powers relating to the private rented sector. The Mayor has a role of supporting local authorities, such as the licensing scheme in Redbridge, Newham tackling criminal landlords.
The number of rough sleepers doubled under the previous Mayor. It has been proven that a lot of rough sleepers are non-British nationals who chose to sleep rough as a no-cost housing option so they can conserve money to move back to their country of origin. A major focus for local authorities has been the supply of temporary accommodation. Previous mayors have tended to stay out of this. Under the current administration there may be co-ordination of procurement and more modular housing (example: the Ladywell scheme in Lewisham).