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Sian Berry: Help renters by closing ‘dangerous’ affordable housing loophole

PUBLISHED: 09:16 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:17 07 December 2017

Sian Berry AM is calling on London mayor Sadiq Khan to close an 'affordable' housing loophole hitting renters. Picture: GREEN PARTY

Sian Berry AM is calling on London mayor Sadiq Khan to close an 'affordable' housing loophole hitting renters. Picture: GREEN PARTY

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Green Party representative at the London Assembly and Highgate councillor Sian Berry responds to mayor Sadiq Khan’s housing plans.

The Mayor of London’s new draft housing strategy and London Plan are out, but I’m worried he’s leaving in a loophole that will mean so-called ‘affordable’ homes at up to 80 per cent of market rates will still be the crumbs offered to Londoners by developers.

The assessment of housing need that came out with the draft plan shows that in total across London 65pc of the new homes need to be at low cost social or intermediate rents.

Under Boris Johnson, the intermediate definition of ‘affordable’ was notorious for representing almost all the lower cost homes built under planning agreements, and for being nowhere near the rent the average person could pay.

In theory this amount of rent - over £1,500 per month in Camden - is affordable to a household earning £60,000 a year, but that assumes two full-time salaries, and many more renting households are now young families including single parents, and a growing number of pensioners.

I recently went to the launch of a report from Age UK London on the plight of older renters. Called ‘Living in Fear’ it estimates that the number of private-renters in London aged 65 and over could double between 2014 and 2039. They suffer badly from poor quality, cold homes, rising costs and most of all want secure tenancies with low rent inflation guaranteed.

Yet, while he’s funding a small number of homes at a better definition - the London Living Rent defined as a third of average wages in an area - the Mayor is not seeking rent control powers from Government, and his housing strategy still says, “All intermediate rented homes should provide at least a 20pc discount on market rents.”

Both the strategy and the London Plan have in their glossaries the Government-approved definition of affordable as “not more than 80pc of market rates.”

It will be desperately concerning for renters to see this dangerous loophole carry on with Sadiq Khan.

As a London Assembly Member, I’ll be responding to the draft strategy this week asking him to make the case to Government that, with average rents in London more than double the rest of the country, we need to be given more control over how ‘affordable’ is defined.

Without more effort to change things, developers will always opt for the least costly option for them. Londoners can’t afford these homes and they can’t afford to be failed on housing by two Mayors in a row.

There’s still time to change the London Plan and I hope everyone in Camden who is suffering from the lack of a truly affordable home will respond to the Mayor before the consultation ends in March.

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