Council considers legal action against Mayor's affordable rent model
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Housing, Legal
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Southwark Council is considering taking legal action over Boris Johnson's decision to set affordable rents in London at 80% of market prices.
The council currently sets social rent at around 40% of market rent values, but any new housing built is subject to restrictions set out in the London Plan, which allows developers to charge the Mayor's new definition and still call new homes 'affordable'.
In many parts of Southwark this can amount to well over £1,000 a month, which the council says far exceeds what is affordable to the majority residents.
The council, alongside its own specific objections, submitted a joint response to the alterations to the London Plan in 2012, on behalf of nine London boroughs. Officers attended the examination in public and put forward the council's view to the planning inspector assessing the soundness of the Mayor's proposals.
The boroughs told the planning inspector that Johnson's proposals were too restrictive and not based on evidence of London's housing needs, and also argued that under the Localism Act, councils should be given more flexibility to use their own expertise to decide how best to seek to meet their housing need within their own borough-specific planning policies.
The inspector agreed with the boroughs and suggested that the Mayor take the restrictive wording out of the alterations, thereby allowing boroughs to set rent caps or their own criteria for affordable housing if required. However, Johnson has rejected the Inspector's recommendation and decided to go ahead anyway.
Now Southwark along with other councils such as Islington are seeking legal advice as to whether a judicial review might be possible.
Councillor Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration and planning, said: “We are very keen to seek a judicial review of this decision. 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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