In a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, calling on him to resign as Labour leader, the Labour councillors in Hammersmith and Fulham, said:
“We’re building nearly 600 genuinely affordable homes.”
That sounds impressive. But is it true? The short answer is no – according to their own Council officers. But here is the full version.
I emailed John Finlayson, the Council’s Head of Planning Regeneration, as follows.
1. If the Council has any definition of what constitutes “genuinely
affordable” housing and if so what that definition is.
2. Please advise the current schedule for “genuinely affordable“
homes due to be built, the tenure, the schemes and the locations.
Please include how many have been built so far, how many are scheduled
for the current financial year and how many are scheduled for 2017/18.
Please advise how many are for social rent.
3. Please advise how will be council properties and how many will be
built by others and by whom (eg housing associations).
The response was as follows:
1) If the Council has any definition of what constitutes “genuinely affordable” housing and if so what that definition is.
The Council uses the affordable housing definition set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, 2012:https://www.gov.uk/guidance/definitions-of-general-housing-terms
The Core Strategy 2011 sets out the current requirements for AH:
“On sites with the capacity for 10 or more self-contained dwellings affordable housing should be provided”.
2) Please advise the current schedule for “genuinely affordable” homes due to be built, the tenure, the schemes and the locations.
The Council does not hold a ‘schedule’ for development. The tenure, schemes and the locations will be completed as part of a wider housing monitoring exercise.
How many have been built so far.
During the 2015/16 monitoring year, the Council granted planning permission for 165 affordable housing units out of a total 1,363 dwellings. 132 affordable housing units of the 165 have been completed. These figures are currently under review as part of a wider housing monitoring exercise.
How many are scheduled for the current financial year and how many are scheduled for 2017/18.
See above. The figures identified in any monitoring year do not necessarily indicate the level of housing (market and/or affordable) that will come forward in future years. Such an exercise is done on an annual basis and therefore figures for 2017/2018 can only be ascertained at the end of that financial year.
Please advise how many are for social rent.
Not currently available at this time.
3) Please advise how will be council properties and how many will be built by others and by whom (eg housing associations).
Phase 1 is due on site in 12-14 weeks and will deliver 31 Council properties, phases 2 and 3 will deliver 33 and 20 properties.
Phase 1 – planning secured:
Barclay Close 6
Barons Court 2
Becklow Gardens 13
Spring Vale 12
Phases 2 and 3 – planning submitted and pre-application
Jepson House 33
Commonwealth Avenue 20
Edith Summerskill 133
So the figure is not “nearly 600” but 132. If we stretch the meaning of “are building” to include “will build this financial year” the figure might get up to 165.
Incidentally that is accepting the official definition of “affordable” as “genuinely affordable”. Though they don’t give a figure for how many will be “social rent”. The Council is hostile to home ownership and so has cut the number of Discount Market Sale.
The truth is that progress has been very sluggish. Apart from Jepson House the items on the list above are the Hidden Homes sites which secured consent back in the summer of 2013 under a Conservative Council. It is absolutely pathetic they have still not been delivered.
Barons Court was a converted basement which should have been ready in late 2014. Commonwealth Avenue, which had been planned for low cost home ownership, should have been finished years ago.
Even this modest effort is only possible due to the Right to Buy receipts. Of the 132 new affordable homes 84 are being funded by right to buy receipts. This shows the policy of funding right to buy replacements is working. But it is odd for Labour to claim credit for this while also denouncing the policy.
This follow up response from the Council confirms the figures:
“We apologise for the delay in responding to your further enquiry.
We have spoken to Firas Al-Sheikh, Housing Financial Strategy Accountant, who has provided us with the below response for you:
For affordable housing development to be funded by retained right to buy receipts they have to be let out at affordable or social rents. This is a stipulation from the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The units that we can fund with Right to Buy receipts are the ones for Phase 1, 2 and 3.
However bear in mind that only Phase 1 has had budget approval and as mentioned previously, Phase 1 is due on site in 12-14 weeks and will deliver 31 Council properties.
As confirmed by John Finlayson in the first response, Phases 2 and 3 will deliver 33 and 20 properties.”
No wonder that Mr Corbyn doesn’t seem to have taken any notice of the letter.