Islington Council has joined with James Murray, the London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, to call for a revision of key guidance to help secure more genuinely affordable housing. In an open letter to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Cllr Ward and Mr Murray refer to the landmark High Court ruling Islington Council helped secure this summer concerning viability assessments that has the potential to be a ‘game-changer’ in helping to secure more genuinely affordable homes on developments.
Viability assessments are tools used by developers to determine the economic feasibility of a proposed development. In recent years, developers have used viability assessments to seek a reduction in the amount of genuinely affordable housing which a local planning authority would otherwise require, by overpaying for land and then arguing that required levels of genuinely affordable housing would not be economically viable.
Islington Council has been calling for changes to the RICS Financial Viability in Planning (2012) guidance note for several years, and have produced its own guidance about how viability assessments are to be used, due to serious concerns about how it was being applied in relation to genuinely affordable housing.
This view has been bolstered by a recent High Court judgement in relation to the Former Territorial Army Site on Parkhurst Road in the London Borough of Islington. Normally, the role of the courts in planning disputes is very limited and restricted to legal technicalities only. However, in this case the Judge Justice Mr David Holgate made the highly unusual move of recommending that RICS revisit its Viability in Planning (2012) Guidance in conjunction with the Government and the planning profession.
The open letter from London’s Deputy Mayor James Murray and Cllr Diarmaid Ward calls on RICS to revisit its guidance in line with the recent High Court judgement, and act in a way that promotes the delivery of housing, particularly genuinely affordable housing, in the future. The letter also calls for RICS to engage with the Greater London Authority, local councils and the planning profession to address conflicts of interest and improve communities’ trust in the development process.
Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, James Murray, said:
“The Mayor wants to see more social rented and other genuinely affordable homes built in London – so alongside councils building more homes themselves, that means developers doing their bit too. To make sure this happens we need clear planning guidance without any loopholes, which is why the Mayor published new planning guidance within his first few months in office and why we want to make sure this approach is followed widely to benefit all Londoners.”
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Housing and Development said:
“There is a shortage of good quality, genuinely affordable housing in London and Islington is feeling this deeply. The council is doing everything it can to help tackle the problem – we have built more new council homes in the last four years than we have in the previous thirty.
“But there are still too many families desperately in need of secure, genuinely affordable homes and developers need to do their part.
“Developers should respect local planning requirements and take this into account when purchasing new sites, rather than overpaying for land and then trying to bypass affordable housing requirements.”