Islington consults on new rules to stop developers 'dodging' affordable homes

New guidance for London's most densely populated borough could soon make it harder for developers to justify not meeting affordable housing requirements made through planning obligations.

Islington: council consults on tougher affordable housing rules (picture: David Howard)
Islington: council consults on tougher affordable housing rules (picture: David Howard)

The London Borough of Islington is consulting on draft viability assessment guidance, which it says would force potential developers in the area to be more transparent in providing evidence about their capacity to meet its 50 per cent affordable homes target.

The council says developers are routinely using their viability assessments to argue that they cannot afford to meet affordable housing and other requirements. The current system, it says, allows them to pay inflated prices for land, cite these prices as making the requirements unaffordable and then recover costs through reductions in their planning obligations.

The new rules would allow the council to scrutinise submissions more closely, the council says, requiring developers to justify the levels of profit sought and allowing them to keep information confidential only if this would be in the public interest.

The council’s executive member for housing and development James Murray said: "Like the rest of London, Islington is facing a housing crisis, with a huge shortage of the affordable housing that Londoners badly need.

"We’re setting out new rules to make sure that developers can’t game the system. We want to make the system transparent, clear, and fair, to help ensure that the affordable housing we badly need is built."

Responding to the proposals, Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, commented: "Viability is clearly a matter of public interest and we support an open and transparent process so everyone can have confidence in the outcomes of the planning process.

"National planning policy makes clear that development won’t happen unless it is viable, so councils need to ensure that a balance is struck between allowing the planning system to operate efficiently and providing clarity in line with local expectations."

Islington says it has been working with other London boroughs to establish a joint approach to viability. The Royal Borough of Greenwich is currently consulting on a policy that would require a public viability case to be made for any development that does not meet its affordable housing target.

Islington’s consultation ends on 4 September.

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