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Readers letters

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A selection of letters from LGC readers.

Mayor must deliver

Like his predecessor, new mayor Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes in London over the next three years (‘Boris in affordable homes quota U-turn’, LGC, 29 May). With more than 300,000 households on social housing waiting lists, the time has never been more urgent.

We welcome these moves to make affordable housing a priority, and look forward to working with the mayor to deliver them. But with the expected withdrawal of the 50% affordable housing target for all new developments, the mayor must now commit to the delivery of social housing in mixed and sustainable communities new homes of all tenures across all London boroughs, not just the larger strategic sites.

Only this will prevent the development of future social housing enclaves and growing wealth inequalities across the city.

Mr Johnson has also pledged to help more of London’s middle-income earners meet their aspirations of home ownership. This is a welcome commitment, but one that must not be at the expense of social rented homes for the thousands in desperate housing need.

London needs balanced, mixed communities for its residents to thrive, and we would expect any new London development to have a mix of housing tenure, including social rented and low cost home ownership.

While we applaud the mayor’s commitment to new affordable housing, the onus is now on him to deliver these homes in mixed and diverse neighbourhoods.

Olivia PowisRegional manager,National Housing Federation

Local housing vision

The communities & local government select committee’s recognition that the UK needs 50,000 new affordable rented homes a year is welcome (‘New watchdog sparks reporting burden fear’, LGC, 22 May). However, this may not be ambitious enough, considering London Councils has identified annual demand for 35,400 in the capital alone.

London Councils’ cross-party housing vision, Our Vision for Homes in London, sets out how to tackle London’s housing crisis to make home ownership more affordable, to develop mixed and sustainable communities, and to tackle homelessness more effectively. Our plans include developing a 50/50 rent-free shared ownership scheme and exploring raising the stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers both initiatives would have a huge impact on making home ownership more affordable.

But to help councils deliver more homes, the government needs to enable them to make better use of their land assets. Barking & Dagenham LBC has already demonstrated how this can be done, and we applaud its desire to respond innovatively to the needs of the community.

Councils should be at the centre of any plans to increase housing supply especially in the capital and we urge the government to work closely with us, and the mayor of London, to deliver the homes Londoners need.

Jamie Carswell (Lab)Executive member for housing,London Councils

Monitoring migration

Calls by council leaders for an urgent overhaul of the way in which the population is counted received backing in a report released by a cross-party committee of MPs in May (‘Population flows ‘miscounted’, LGC, 29 May).

The Local Government Association has lobbied for an improvement in the way official population statistics are collected, and the effective use of other indicators of migration and other local population changes such as the use of GP registrations, national insurance registrations and school roll data.

The release of the House of Commons Treasury Committee report Counting the Population supports LGA concerns by calling for urgent improvement to methods of estimating the population.

Official statistics on how many migrants are coming, or where they are going, are inadequate. The result is that councils can’t plan effectively for population change and inadequate statistics are used to allocate money.

Using alternative sources of information such as GP registrations and national insurance numbers as part of a new package of measurements would provide a valuable diagnostic to enable the government and councils to gain a much clearer picture of local populations and therefore allow the right amount of money to get to the right places, ensuring decent public services for all.

The LGA also believes that some of the additional revenue the Exchequer gains from migrants should go to a contingency fund for councils coming under particular pressure.

This would benefit councils both in those areas that have long received migrants and those in parts of the country that traditionally have not experienced this kind of population change.

Tim AllenProgramme director, local government analysis and research,LGA

New approach to s106

News of developers seeking to renegotiate s106s in the light of the market downturn (‘Squeeze on planning gain’, LGC, 29 May) is an inevitable reflection on current conditions.

However, it is in nobody’s interests to see developments fall through, particularly when demand for housing is continuing to increase while supply falls away, and we could soon see rents rising to match mortgage costs.

The British Property Federation (BPF) believes that if councils take a more flexible approach to ensuring a development’s viability then no one has to lose out.

They have the powers to decide what qualifies for s106s and should take it where the development is necessary. Where there is demand for rented property, they should look to encourage build to let and should consider widening the definition of affordable housing to include market rent.

A report the BPF is set to publish on the future of the professional rented sector outlines how we believe councils and developers could work together in a new approach to deliver new homes that suits people’s pockets and does not rely on mortgage finance.

Private renting has de facto delivered the affordable housing this country has required over the past seven years, housing 500,000 households more than owner-occupation and social renting put together at rents which on average has between half and two-thirds the cost of home ownership.

Reflecting this in planning policy, so that it encourages institutional investment, would go a long way to ensuring people continue to have access to an affordable roof over their heads.

Ian FletcherDirector of commercial and residential,British Property Federation

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