The Tories have made affordable housing a meaningless term.
First the government brought in the Orwellian affordable rent model, urging housing associations to charge up to 80% of market rates that are affordable only in name. Then after last year’s election they introduced starter homes, which will cost up to £450,000 in Greater London and be affordable only to households earning at least £77,000 a year.
Now, they recently finished a consultation to change the fundamental meaning of the term altogether.
For decades “affordable housing” meant exactly what it said on the tin – homes that were affordable, even to those on low incomes. Traditional affordable homes, whether council housing or housing association properties, stayed true to the Government definition.
But the consultation suggested a new definition, encompassing a “fuller range of products” that would include a “range of affordable products for rent and for ownership for households whose needs are not met by the market, but without being unnecessarily constrained by the parameters of products that have been used in the past which risk stifling innovation. This would include products that are analogous to low cost market housing or intermediate rent, such as discount market sales or innovative rent to buy housing.”
The only problem is that this “fuller range of products” will include products that are only affordable to those on the highest incomes and therefore affordable in name only. It would also open the door to include new housing tenures that might be created in future, irrespective of whether or not they are actually affordable to ordinary people.
In short, it makes a mockery of the concept of affordable housing by including homes which are not affordable even to those on the highest incomes.
The London Assembly Labour Group wrote to Government to oppose this change. As the lead Member on planning, I drafted our letter, which you can find here: London Assembly Labour Group – NPPF consultation response
It is expected the changes will be announced by Government in summer.