Council's 'insane' proposal to let flats at 'intermediate' rents slammed
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Housing
A proposal by Westminster Council to let social housing flats at ‘intermediate rents’ to those earning over £50,000 a year has been blasted as "insane".
The London borough's Labour Group has complained that, with 1,000 families living in overcrowded conditions, the "insanity of Westminster’s housing policy knows no bounds".
In a report to this week’s Housing and Finance Scrutiny Committee, councillors were asked to consider: “In the future a proportion of social rented homes should be let to ’intermediate’ households. The city council will always have to meet its statutory responsibilities to provide social rented homes to people with priority, however the impact of welfare reform, and the ability to discharge duty into the private rented sector, could result in the longer term in a drop in demand for social rented housing from traditional groups."
The report concluded with a proposal with which all the Conservative councillors on the Committee agreed: “Whether reduced demand for social rented housing due to welfare reform is likely in the long-term. If so, more flexibility to use some social rented homes for intermediate customers (at intermediate rents) could result. This could be facilitated through merging the intermediate and social rented housing registers.”
Councillor Guthrie McKie, Labour spokesperson for housing, said: “The council has given up trying to find housing solutions for the 1,000 Westminster families living in overcrowded and 400 families in unsuitable housing conditions.
"Instead they have developed a model, urged on to achieve ‘balanced’ communities, of intermediate rents. To access these new housing opportunities all intermediate rents will be linked to earnings and, of course, you don’t even have to be a Westminster resident to qualify. For a two-bedroom flat you will need and income of £40-50k pa. A three-bedroom flat will require an income of £56k pa. The average income of Westminster families with high housing need is £25k pa.
“The acquisition of the new intermediate housing units will be funded by the affordable housing fund (AHF). This fund is what developers pay into when they don’t want to build on site affordable housing.
“The insanity of Westminster’s housing policy knows no bounds. With many of our residents with long residential links to Westminster living in dreadful housing conditions, the Conservatives devise a scheme where people with good jobs paying twice the average wage, with no residential links, receive a subsidy to help then rent a flat. It is an affront to the notion of good and civilised governance.”
But the council’s cabinet Member for housing, councillor Jonathan Glanz, defended the proposal. He said: “As part of our housing renewal programme we are increasing the number of homes on our housing estates by more than 1,000.
“However, we cannot ignore that London and particularly Westminster remains an expensive place to live and we want to give those with connections to the city the opportunity to live here. Intermediate homes offer people who live or work here reduced rents for good quality properties. Our top priority for these homes remains Westminster residents and people on our housing waiting list.
“Mixed communities are key to creating a stable, sustainable and enjoyable place to live and building intermediate homes are a key way of achieving this.
“We would only consider renting out council homes at intermediate rents if we had an over-supply of properties – it is absurd to say that we would take council homes away from those who need them.
“We are currently developing a new housing strategy, which will help us to build more intermediate homes that are accessible to Westminster households on more moderate incomes and to broaden affordable housing choice in the city.“