Affordable housing hit by 'insane' vacant building credit policy

Reports that housing developers could gain hundreds of millions of pounds in windfall profits under a new policy that allows them to reduce affordable housing contributions feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Guardian reports on the vacant building credit, a new government policy intended to encourage housing development on brownfield sites. The newspaper reports that "since December, the government has exempted anyone who turns an empty building into private housing from paying for further affordable units, even if they could do so and still make healthy profits". According to the newspaper, a senior official at Westminster City Council "has described the government’s new vacant building credit as insane and estimated it could lose as much as £1 billion in housing payments, deepening the accommodation crisis affecting the poorest people".

The Independent reports that "former environment secretary Owen Paterson’s controversial plans to allow the destruction of ancient woodland if new trees are planted elsewhere appear to have been quietly set aside". Paterson championed "biodiversity offsetting" until he left his position last July, the newspaper writes, and "although many of the sites being offset may be of relatively little environmental importance, Mr Paterson caused an outcry when he admitted that the criteria were so broad it could be applied to 400-year old woodland".

The Times (subscription required) reports that "businesses and property owners in Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Surrey and Hampshire could be forced into helping to fund London’s proposed Crossrail 2 line, the cost of which is expected to escalate to £27 billion". According to the newspaper, mayoral agency Transport for London (TfL) is "preparing funding proposals" for the proposed Chelsea-to-Hackney line and "with London competing for Treasury funds with the HS2 high-speed line and a Manchester-Leeds HS3 northern line, TfL is likely to call for help for financing for Crossrail 2 from across the South East".

The Observer reports that "thousands gathered outside London’s City Hall" at the weekend "to protest at the lack of affordable housing and curb the spiralling rents that they warn are ‘ripping the heart’ out of London". "An estimated 2,000 people encircled the building and demanded that the mayor, Boris Johnson, build more council homes, control private rents and call off the proposed demolition of properties on up to 70 London estates." 

The Guardian runs an article on the Abbey Tower development in Abbey Wood in south-east London, which it says is "out of reach to many in an area where the average household income is less than £35,000", with the prospect of owning one of the flats for most residents "as remote as the Hong Kong hotel where they were being sold to investors last weekend".

The Sunday Times (subscription required) reports that Port Meadow in Oxford "is now at the centre of a row over a complex of student flats that, it is claimed, has ‘vandalised’ the city’s famous skyline". Academics "furious" that the project went ahead with inadequate consultation "have forced a vote of Oxford University’s congregation – the university’s sovereign body – demanding the top floor of six of the blocks is removed to restore the view".

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