LONDON: The mayor of London Sadiq Khan will allow private house-builders to limit the amount of affordable housing in new developments to 35%, he announced in a new housing strategy. The measure, which allows developers to conceal revealing the profitability of their schemes to officials, is intended to increase the contribution made by housebuilders to cheaper housing but has led to criticism that the mayor is reneging on his election pledge to make ’50% of all new homes in London genuinely affordable’. Khan said that he now planned to make this pledge ‘a long-term strategic goal’ as he stressed that “fixing the housing crisis will be a marathon, not a sprint”. “London is in the midst of a housing crisis, with thousands of Londoners priced out of a city they call home,” said Khan. “These announcements today demonstrate real progress on the long road towards fixing London’s housing crisis.” City Hall added that the new approach would “offer developers a new quicker route through the planning process, removing the requirement for protracted viability negotiations if they meet the minimum 35% affordable housing”.
The announcement of the new target comes amid a growing crisis in the availability of affordable housing in London, as just 13% of the new homes approved in London in 2014-15 were classed as affordable compared to a third in 2007-08. Khan is said to believe that accommodating the demand for 35% from private builders is an important stepping stone towards delivering his 50% pledge by 2020. It is understood that some builders wanted the threshold to be 30%. The mayor added that he would grant £3.15bn to housing associations who build at least 50% affordable homes “with some partners enabled to deliver at least 60%”. These funds were allocated to City Hall by the chancellor Phillip Hammond in his autumn statement last week. It is estimated that they will help fund at least 90,000 affordable homes over the next six years, an increase of nearly 50% since 2010. Andrew Boff, the Conservative housing spokesman at the London Assembly, accused Khan of “ratting on what he said during the election” following the announcement. “There was a clear statement that 50% was what he wanted. Now this has become a long-term aspiration. The mayor has resiled on his housing target,” Boff said. Boff also questioned whether Khan would be able to realistically deliver upon his 35% affordable homes target, predicting that private developers would prefer to negotiate to deliver fewer affordable homes and turn down the 35% fast-track approach. City Hall strongly denied that Khan had backtracked on his election pledge with the announcement.