London is one of the worst places in the UK for lack of housing, which is why the government has been constantly called upon to build more affordable housing around the whole of the capital. At the same time, landlords have been called upon to provide more social housing in the city, and whilst some may be wary, they have been advised that by investing in landlord insurance they will be protected if they encounter any problems.
However, it has been revealed today that the Westminster Council has not spent a £30 million fund which was secured from property developers in the area. When building luxury apartment schemes in the Soho and Mayfair areas, developers are obliged to include a proportion of cheap-rent homes or pay the council. The payments should only be allowed if it is “not practical or viable” to build cheap-rent homes in the new development, and the money paid is supposed to go towards building affordable homes in other developments. However, the council has so far only spent £4.6 million creating forty-four new affordable houses in the West End area.
The figures were revealed after a Soho resident, David Bieda filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the council. Discussing his findings, Mr Bieda said: “The Soho Housing Association is losing 36 homes in Wardour and Meard streets, leaving a net gain of eight over 12 years. There have been few smaller affordable housing schemes but also, as protected tenancies fall away, this probably means a net loss. Every recent meeting of the Soho Society Planning Group has had applications for new private housing – which is very welcome – but there seems to be an urgent need to address the question of balance, difficult though it may be. We all know it’s more expensive to build in the West End but that is precisely the reason for an effective, affordable, housing policy.”
However, Councillor Jonathan Glanz, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for housing, defended their actions in an email to the West End Extra. It said: “The affordable housing fund is there to be used for creating new affordable homes anywhere in Westminster. There is no requirement to build the homes in the wards where the contributions were generated. The fund is spent on a range of schemes across Westminster, such as for 36 new homes on the Elgin Estate in W9, but also in the West End through schemes on Great Windmill Street and Great Tichfield Street.” We continue to create affordable homes in the West End, such as the 54 at the former Middlesex Hospital site and the 65 which will be provided at Trenchard House as part of the wider regeneration of Berwick Street.”