Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

What's a Fair Share?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

What's a Fair Share?

Article excerpt

Byline: Jane Barry

TO BUY a shared-ownership home, getting on your council's housing listshould be your first step - priority is given to those on local lists. But whatis your council doing about building more shared-ownership homes in your area?Councils decide how many affordable homes will be built when they give planningpermission to developers. Mayor Ken Livingstone has set a London-wide target of50 per cent affordable housing, to include social-rented and sharedownershiphomes. Some boroughs are achieving this. Hackney, for instance, has 50 per centaffordable housing on all schemes of more than 10 units.

But others claim the target is inflexible and does not take account of localcircumstances.

One bone of contention is how many of these affordable homes should beshared-ownership. The mayor says only 15 per cent, but some inner-Londonboroughs claim their high prices mean higher levels of sharedownership areneeded.

Hammersmith and Fulham has the eighth largest amount of social housing inLondon and 'Gordon Brown councils can once developers in the fourth highesthouse prices in the country - 46 per cent of residents aged 20-39 cannot affordto buy even the cheapest private-market home. Yet only one per cent of itshomes is shared-ownership.

"If we want a balanced and mixed community," says H&F council leader StephenGreenhalgh, "we must have more shared-owner- ship." He is infuria t e d b y t he mayor's demand plan for 30 per cent that the council scrap its plan for 30per cent shared-ownership. "The target," he says, "is being applied in aStalinist way." Wandsworth admits most of its 2,000 homes presently underconstruction or at planning stage are shared-ownership. "We've had a vigorousexchange of views with the mayor," says Wandsworth's Steve Maynor. "We havesimilar objectives but a different approach."

Aspokesman for the mayor counters: "Without strong strategic leadership by themayor, too many boroughs would plead 'special circumstances' to reduceaffordable housing targets or provide shared-ownership over social rentedhousing." But London Councils, the body representing London boroughs, believesthat, while the mayor's targets are good for the capital overall, "It shouldn'tbe a onesize-fits-all approach. Boroughs should be able to respond toindividual needs."

Another factor that keeps councils from delivering the target of 50 per cent isfear of discouraging developers.

Redbridge has been castigated by the mayor for aiming at 25 per cent, but aspokeswoman maintains, "High affordable housing targets can make somedevelopments less viable." Haringey sets a target of 35 per cent and even themayor has agreed that in Westminster, in the West End, a target above 30 percent is not feasible.

So it is good news that Gordon Brown has agreed that councils can once againbecome developers in their own right and is lifting the financial restrictionsthat make it impossible for them to build homes themselves. …

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