Providing more genuinely affordable homes for local residents is one of our top priorities as a Labour council so since the Government announced the Vacant Building Credit last year, Lambeth has been at the forefront of campaigning against a policy that would have drastically reduced our ability to provide the affordable housing that residents desperately need. We are delighted therefore to see common sense at the High Court in emphatically rejecting this policy.
As Cllr Lib Peck and other leaders in local government set out in March, this policy represented a boon for property developers by weakening the requirements for affordable housing and constraining the ability of councils to ensure developments properly serve the communities in which they are set. The Vacant Building Credit would have exacerbated the housing shortage across London boroughs, removed our ability as a council to set planning rules to suit the needs of our area and would have severely hindered our ambition to meet our affordable housing targets and maintain mixed communities in central London.
Our analysis showed that, had the policy been applied to recent schemes approved by Lambeth, affordable housing would have been reduced by over a third (from 866 affordable units in 14 developments to 592). In the context of the Government and the Mayor’s failure to build the homes that Londoners need and the huge reductions in the affordable housing budget, such an assault on the ability of councils to provide affordable housing would have been a huge blow to families who desperately need it. That’s why we fought against it – and we’ll keep fighting if they try it again.
In contrast to such an incoherent and incompetent approach by the Conservatives, we at Lambeth are taking the action needed to tackle the housing shortage. By delivering on our pledge to build 1,000 homes for council rent over the next 4 years, investing in existing council homes and holding developers to account to ensure projects deliver affordable housing across the borough, we will continue to support our residents and campaign to protect them from short-sighted and damaging policies from this Government.
-Cllr Matthew Bennett, Cabinet Member for Housing