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London boroughs see 'affordable rent' legal challenge dismissed

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London boroughs see 'affordable rent' legal challenge dismissed

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

London boroughs see 'affordable rent' legal challenge dismissed London boroughs see 'affordable rent' legal challenge dismissed

London boroughs have vowed to continue their fight for lower rents in new, affordable housing after a High Court judge today dismissed their attempt to go against the Mayor of London by imposing lower rent limits.

Islington, Camden, Brent, Enfield, Greenwich, Lambeth, Southwark, Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils had challenged Boris Johnson's plan to allow 'affordable rents' in new housing to be set at up to 80% of the market rate.

The nine councils argued that they should be allowed to set lower rent limits in new affordable housing – since rents at anywhere close to 80% of market levels would be unaffordable for many local people in London. Until now, councils have been able to insist on social rents that are typically around 30% to 40% of market level in inner London.

In a judgment handed down today, the Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE said: "All parties agree that more affordable rented housing is needed in London, at levels below 80% of market value, but they disagree about how best to realise this aim."

She ruled that the mayor had acted within his power, and that the Mayor’s Plan leaves it open to boroughs to fight for lower rents on individual developments, particularly in developments that are not funded by the mayor.

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

"We took this case to the High Court because we wanted to be able to set lower rents limits across the board, and so we are disappointed that this judgement may make it harder to do that. But the judgement does recognise that boroughs can keep fighting for lower rent levels in individual developments, particularly where there’s no funding from the mayor, and so it looks like there will be many more battles to come.

"Unless we fight for lower rents, the mayor’s higher rents will price many local people, especially families on low and medium incomes and vulnerable people, out of large areas of London. The mayor’s higher rents are totally wrong for our city."

Cllr Pete Robbins, Lambeth's Cabinet member for Housing, said: "This is very disappointing but Lambeth council will continue to fight to ensure that 'affordable rent' housing is genuinely affordable to ordinary families. If we don't, then many people will simply be priced out of London."

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

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