Planning for Housing: Applicants 'responding positively' to London mayor's affordable homes drive

Applicants have responded positively to London mayor Sadiq Khan's new guidance on affordable housing, the Planning for Housing conference was told today.

John Wacher speaking at the event yesterday
John Wacher speaking at the event yesterday

John Wacher, viability team leader at the Greater London Authority (GLA), said that, since the guidance was published last year, there had been an increase in the number of applications submitted which were meeting a 35 per cent affordable housing threshold.

The affordable housing supplementary planning guidance (SPG) stipulated that, where applicants are meeting a 35 per cent threshold for affordable housing provision alongside an appropriate tenure mix and with no public subsidy, they would receive a fast-track approach with no viability assessment being required by the GLA. The overall strategic target for affordable housing remains at 50 per cent.

"Overall the mayor has seen a positive response to the SPG - we’ve seen more and more applications meeting the 35 per cent threshold," Wacher said.

"Applicants are strongly encouraged to use the fast track route where possible. Where this is not the case, viability assessments are being treated rigorously and the mayor has been using his call-in powers to increase affordable housing delivery and direct refusal where an inappropriate approach to viability is taken", he added.

Wacher said that, on becoming mayor, Khan had "very soon identified that housing is a key part of his strategy and that the growing housing crisis is threatening the city’s success and harming the well-being of Londoners."

Wacher said the level of affordable housing provision had not recovered since the recession in the capital. "The increase in housing values hasn’t translated into additional affordable housing," he said.

Speaking at the same session, Emma Cariaga, head of operations at developer British Land, said a flexible approach to tenure mix of housing helped deliver mixed-use schemes and avoided polarisation of communities. Cariaga, who is leading on the development on Canada Wharf scheme in Rotherhithe, south London, said that "getting flexibility and a range of affordable housing tenures is a huge part of a successful project".

Nick Cuff, land director at developer Pocket Living, said boosting skills and increasing the diversity of housing providers were key to expanding the output of the industry.


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