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London boroughs launch High Court challenge against affordable rent

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London boroughs launch High Court challenge against affordable rent

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Local Government

London boroughs launch High Court challenge against affordable rent London boroughs launch High Court challenge against affordable rent

Nine London boroughs are today bringing a High Court challenge against the Mayor of London in a bid to protect genuinely affordable rents for local people.

Islington, Camden, Brent, Enfield, Greenwich, Lambeth, Southwark, Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils are challenging Mayor Boris Johnson's Revised Early Minor Alterations (REMA) to the London Plan.

For many years, boroughs have been able to ensure new affordable housing is provided at rents local people can afford. Typically, in inner London that is 30% to 40% of market levels.

However, the mayor is seeking to impose mandatory 'affordable' rents in new housing of up to 80% of the market rate, refusing to allow boroughs to negotiate lower rents that local people can afford.

The boroughs will argue that rents at 80% of market levels will be unaffordable for many local people. They are also arguing that the Mayor of London was wrong to treat London as a single housing market, when there are in fact many different housing markets across the city.

The mayor's position runs contrary to the advice of an independent government-appointed Planning Inspector, who recommended that boroughs should keep their powers to set rents in new affordable housing.

The statutory challenge will be heard in the High Court today (March 13) and tomorrow (March 14).

Cllr James Murray, executive member for housing and development for Islington Council, which is leading the legal challenge on behalf of the boroughs, said: "Across London, we need to keep rents down in new affordable housing so that people on low incomes can actually afford it.

"That's why our nine boroughs are challenging the mayor’s decision to let rents in new affordable housing rise to near-market levels. We believe councils should be able to cap rents at lower levels so that the new homes are genuinely affordable.

"The mayor’s plan would price many local people, especially families on low and medium incomes and vulnerable people, out of large areas of London. It is totally wrong for our city."

The mayor of London's proposal applies to new affordable housing built in London. Existing council tenancies and the majority of housing association tenancies will be unaffected.

Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, said: "This is about making sure that local people can actually afford to live in taxpayer-funded homes built in Hackney in future.

"I believe that councils are best placed to assess local market rents and what local people on low incomes can afford, and this is why Hackney, together with other councils, is bringing this legally challenge of the Mayor of London’s decision."

Councillor Fiona Colley, Southwark's cabinet member for regeneration and planning, added: “We have challenged the mayor’s decision because this is a vitally important issue for an Inner-London borough like Southwark.

"Councils need every power possible to ensure rent levels are appropriate and affordable for their residents. Maybe there are some areas of London where rent levels of 80% of market rent are affordable to most people, but they certainly aren't in Southwark.

"The implication of the mayor's decision is that councils will have little power to make sure new affordable housing is really, genuinely affordable for local people.”

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