Lucy Ivimy: Setting “affordable housing” quotas too high means no new homes are built

ivimyA guest post from Cllr Lucy Ivimy

It is helpful if you want to solve a problem to understand what it is that is causing it. What is causing the housing crisis and why?

In essence, of course, it is the substantial growth in the UK population and overwhelmingly, growth in the population of London. And this trend of growth will continue for some time.

Of course if you have more people, higher demand, prices will go up if you are not building the homes to match. Even if more homes are being built, the relative cost of homes in more central locations will rise. That makes housing less affordable to all Londoners.

With this population growth, we must build more homes. That is what, as a Conservative council in Hammersmith and Fulham, we concentrated on.

The number of homes built is more important than the tenure mix.

People who are already owners are not feeling the pain of this.

The people most affected are the young looking for their first home, whether to rent or to buy.

There are enormous difficulties being faced by young workers in London. That is why our Conservative administration gave treat support to H&F Homebuy, which is designed to help first time buyers with a discounted price on properties. That is why we encouraged the various forms of low cost home ownership, shared ownership, discounted market sale.

Why we encouraged the affordable quota of new developments to be in this form.

But it is critical to remember that for a large new housing development to actually happen, it must be financially viable. Otherwise it will not be built out. As an administration we would rather have the new homes built than not built. That is why some schemes had less affordable housing than we would have wished.

Some developments were approved with little affordable housing because they give some other form of public benefit. The proposals for the new Hammersmith Town Hall are to provide much needed new civic offices and a cinema; the Riverside studios scheme is rebuilding the wonderful Riverside Studios. To demand that the developer subsidise affordable homes as well as these other public benefits would make these unviable.

The Conservative administration has worked on and set up schemes that should provide over 12,000 new homes over various regeneration areas over the next ten or fifteen years.

My plea to the incoming Labour council is: “Please do not kill this much needed housing by trying to insist on quotas of affordable housing that are not achievable. That will be the greatest disservice you can do to the young would be home owners of the borough.”

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