Unaffordable Confusion

Any proposal that promotes an increase in affordable homes is often a welcome one across the capital and particularly within the MPC London office. Mayor Sadiq Khan yesterday launched a new initiative, Building Council Homes for Londoners. The ambitions the Mayor has laid out are typically noble, with talk of 10,000 new council homes over the next four years.

These ‘council’ homes will be focused on social rent levels, or London Affordable Rent. Which is different to London Living Rent, and indeed Intermediate Rent, which I’m quite sure is very similar to, but not quite the same as, Shared Ownership. Like a new litter of puppies, each one has its own character and idiosyncrasies but put them all together and it becomes increasingly difficult to identify which is which. This is before we plough into the issue of off-site affordable, or the insatiable young pup that flees the family home (to really drag out the analogy).

Developers and consultants welcomed the introduction of the Mayor’s Fast Track Route, meaning that any application that meets or exceeds 35% affordable housing is exempt from the requirement to submit a viability review. This provided a reasonable target for developers and to some extent levelled the playing field, reducing the incentives for hard bargaining and unpredictable negotiations on land values.

A similar approach should be taken to definitions of affordable housing. Endless tinkering has only served to obfuscate and at a time when most Londoners yet to buy their own home are considering whether or not they will ever have the opportunity, clarity would be key.

Clear definitions can lead to a clarity of thought for councils (both at officer level and members), developers and the public. Whilst all proposals to improve affordability are welcome at MPC London, starting with a clear definition of what affordable means would seem a sensible place to start.

This article was written by Gerard Cockburn, Account Manager at MPC.