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London's 50% affordable housing target will 'take time' to achieve

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Plans to make one in every two new homes built in London affordable will “take time” to implement, the capital’s deputy mayor for housing James Murray (Lab) has told LGC.

Labour mayor Sadiq Khan’s manifesto set an “ambitious target of 50% of new homes being genuinely affordable”.

James Murray

James Murray

London’s deputy mayor for housing James Murray (foreground) with Pocket’s CEO Marc Vlessing

Mr Murray, who was previously Islington LBC’s executive member for housing and development, has been tasked with making that target a reality.

“It’s going to require effort across the board and it’s going to be a marathon not a sprint,” Mr Murray told LGC.

“It’s going to take time and it will require the co-operation of all different partners working together to deliver affordable housing.

“We retain our ambitious long-term strategic target, recognising different sites make different contributions, but we also recognise getting there is going to take time.”

Only 13% of the new homes which received planning permission in the capital last year were affordable, Mr Murray told attendees at the opening of a modular development of affordable one-bedroom flats in Lambeth by the developer Pocket.

Mr Murray said “some local authorities wanted to build more affordable housing” but felt former mayor Boris Johnson (Con) “didn’t necessarily have their backs”.

Reaching the 50% target will require investment, the release of public sector land, and “a change of planning rules”, said Mr Murray.

A review of the London Plan – the capital’s spatial development strategy – is underway but Mr Murray said that would not be adopted for at least two years.

In the meantime “supplementary guidance” will be issued in the autumn which will “set out some our first steps towards a higher affordable housing target”, said Mr Murray.

Pocket’s director of sales and marketing Lucian Smithers told LGC the 50% affordable housing target was “within the gift of local authorities” as long as it spread across the capital.

Mr Smither said it was “beyond the means” of small and medium-sized developers to build the affordable homes areas need without “some assurances” the investment of going through the planning process was “going to pay off”.

“The faster we can make these processes for small and medium-sized developers, the more variance we will have in the housing typology,” said Mr Smithers.

LGC reported in March how there had been a 6% increase in the number of planning permissions for homes granted by councils with a record number decided within the required time limits.

Mr Smithers agreed that in the 10 years Pocket has been in business local authorities had got better at processing applications but raised concerns about the ability of planning departments to meet the demands of the housing crisis.

“We are incredibly supportive of [local authority planners] but they are stretched and they are not rewarded for thinking about variances within housing typology” said Mr Smithers.

“We have to find a way to resource planners so they can get back to their role as planning for the demographic trends and demands for their local area.”

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