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Westminster must deliver more affordable homes and tackle empties - report

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Westminster must deliver more affordable homes and tackle empties - report


Published by Anonymous for in Local Government and also in Communities, Development, Housing

Westminster must deliver more affordable homes and tackle empties - report Westminster must deliver more affordable homes and tackle empties - report

An independent report has called on the London Borough of Westminster to build more homes for low and middle income residents, create more mixed tenure developments and do more to tackle empty properties.

Ramidus Consulting's study recommends that Westminster City Council should:

  • Deliver public sector rented homes for local people and shared ownership homes for local key workers within the borough.
  • Seek to retain affordable housing on site in order to create and preserve mixed and balanced communities. It should also consider a tiered mechanism for negotiating affordable housing provision to reflect land value.
  • Initiate a process to collect more accurate data about empty properties in the borough, either through council tax returns or periodic survey work. There is currently no official source for data showing the extent of wholly or periodically vacant properties.

Commissioned by the council, the report's key findings are:

  • Between 2003-2012 there were 3,335 sales of property valued at more than £2 million in Westminster – 8% of the total number of transactions, but accounting for more than 40% of value.
  • Westminster on its own yields more stamp duty land tax than 29 of the largest local authorities in the UK combined (£348m in 2012-13).
  • Owners of properties in the £5-£15m price band and of properties above £15m together contribute at least £2.3 billion a year to the London and the wider economy.
  • Over the past four years, sales of homes worth more than £2m have averaged 450 in Westminster per year, annual stock turnover ranges between 2,700-6,000 units – so homes of more than £2m account for around 10%.
  • Prime residential does not play a major role in preventing Westminster from being able to meet its overall housing needs. Other, wider factors are far more significant.

Reacting to the report, Westminster's Labour councillors have claimed that Ramidus' recommendations should not be "crowded out by the facts and figures of the relatively small prime and super-prime housing market".

According to Labour, the council is currently failing on all three fronts identified by Ramidus:

• Not enough social housing is being built to help the 2,000 families in temporary accommodation or those council tenants in overcrowded conditions. Earlier this week research by specialist fund and asset managers London Central Portfolio revealed that in 2013, 40% of new build homes in Westminster were sold to buy-to-let investors.
• The council regularly fails to ensure that new developments include on-site affordable housing.
• Westminster is one of the few councils in London which fails to charge the increased council tax for properties that have been empty for more than two years.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour group, said: “The key housing challenge in Westminster is to provide more social housing and shared ownership housing so that people have somewhere locally to live that they can afford. The super-rich have always flocked to Westminster but they should not drive housing policy and we have no need to be grateful to them for buying expensive property in Mayfair and Belgravia.”

“The council cannot stop the impact of global capitalism on Westminster but residents want some leadership and action from the Council to provide the homes for local people in need. Sadly, we are getting neither from Westminster Conservatives who have allowed prime and super-prime housing to crowd out the housing needs of local people.”

Responding to the report, cllr Robert Davis, the council's deputy leader and cabinet member for the built environment, said: “This independent report strongly counters the perception that overseas investors are buying high value properties in London as an investment and then leaving them empty.

“In-fact it shows that the prime residential market is an engine room within the UK economy, generating jobs and growth for London, and billions for the UK.

“Creating affordable housing is a priority for all local authorities – and top of the list for Westminster – but building affordable homes should not be done purely through public money that can be spent elsewhere. It is a simple fact that developments like One Hyde Park contribute millions to affordable housing projects and are an important cog in the overall housing mechanics of the capital.

“Housing in Westminster will always be a complex issue, because of our varied demographics and the high demand to live here. The data and conclusions drawn from this piece of research will provide some help for us to formulate our City Plan and update our housing policies.”


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