Demolishing council estates without replacement a titanic act of official vandalism -ABOLISH VIABILITY ASSESSMENTS

9 September 2017

HOW DO WE CREATE ENOUGH AFFORDABLE HOMES?

Demolishing council estates with out replacement is a titanic act of official vandalism.

  

ABOLISH VIABILITY ASSESSMENTS (VA) 

"It's the rich wot gets the pleasure, it's the poor wot gets the blame. Its the same the whole world over ain't it all a blooming shame". To Justify demolishing a council esatate in Haringey the couincil leader told The Guardian in January 2017 "The Northumberland Park estate in north Tottenham ... already endures levels of unemployment, crime and appalling poor health which no family should have to endure". We all remember government ministers crying and "skivers" and "scroungers" to justify shredding unemployment, disability, bousing and council tax benefits. 
 
The old Victorian Musical Hall refection on inequality between rich and poor has become the principle governing UK housing policy since 1979. It has then been formalized to ensure maximum profits and minimum affordable housing by the introduction of viability assessments in the NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK 2012. That set the scene for the demolition of council estates in London by councils handing their free public land to international developers with which to exploit the chaotic housing market. Its the landlords wot get the profits and the tenants wot gets the rent arrears. 
 
There is no specific commitment to an amount of affordable housing in London because it too often subject to profit viability both before and after planning permission. It seems far more likely that the VAs are driving the proportion of affordable housing down in favour of selling and renting at market prices. The definition of affordable housing linking affordable rents to market rents, rather than income, like a living wage or living unemployment benefit, renders even more housing unaffordable and out of reach of renters. 
 
There is a consultant who works for Local Authorities calling himself "Affordable Housing 106" and advertises himself as "How to reduce affordable housing, S106 and Community Infrastructure Levy contributions. "
 

The land must be separated from the cost of huilding. So the abolition of viability assessments is the first step towards building enough affordable homes.

That requires tseparating land from building and he use of all public land to build council housing. Alternatively it can be turned into  Community Land Trusts on which the only cost to the renters is building and maintenance. As with council housing the costs can be spread over 50 or 60 years. Demolishing council estates with out replacement is a titanic act of official vandalism.   
 

But the crisis for the poorest renters is now and some immediate relief is needed.  

Their health suffers because their income is low and benefits are frozen; high rents and council tax drive them ever lower.

Immediate relief includes;

a)  Ending the freeze on benefit increases.

b)  Ending the cuts in housing benefit created by the bedroom tax, the benefit cap and the local housing allowance, all of which have increased the rent paid by the poorest tenants.

c)  Restoring the 100% council tax benefit for the unemployed.

d)  Linking affordable rents to income say at 33%. It is absurd to suggest that 80% of the local average market rent can be affordable because it goes (surprise! surprise!) up with the market while incomes are stagnating.

Health is both the humanitarian and an economic reason for making rents affordable.  

The Institute of Health Equity has reported

a)  Low  income and debts impact on health and

b)  In 2010 it was estimated that inequalities in health accounted for productivity losses of £31-£33 billion per year, and £20-£32 billion a year in lost taxes and higher welfare payments.  Additional NHS healthcare costs associated with inequality were estimated to be in excess of £5.5 billion a year.

 

CASE HISTORY

 
Haringey Council has decided to share the profits from from demolishing and regenerating council estates with Lend Lease in the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). The leader of the council told The Guardian on the 20th January 2017 that the council will be "... taking a 50% share of the proceeds". To to make a profit which satisfies Lend Lease she will have had to cut the number of affordable homes to the maximum allowed by the viability assessment. 
 
The reduction in affordable housing in Haringey has already started. BNP PARISBA REAL ESTATE reported in 2013 that " The Council’s policy position is that developments should provide up to 50% affordable housing, subject to viability, with a tenure mix of 70% social rented housing and 30% shared ownership housing (with some relaxation on this tenure split in the east of the Borough".
 
However by the 7th March 2017 Haringey Cabinet was minuting "Although the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had put forward a 50% rate for affordable housing, the Council‟s emerging publicly consulted Local Plan Policy was 40% and this was based on significant work completed by external advisers on what is viable in the borough. Therefore, it was not realistic to make a firm agreement on 50% affordable housing on sites. However, the Council had committed, through the agreement of the Housing Strategy, to maximise affordable housing and would continue to work as hard as possible to increase numbers, going above the 40% Council target where possible, as increased affordable housing was a huge priority." 

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