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Southwark Council challenges Mayor over 'affordable' rent

Published Friday, 14 March 2014

Southwark Council has joined forces with eight other London boroughs, led by Islington Council, to challenge the Mayor of London in court over the affordability of rents in the capital.

Southwark Council has joined forces with eight other London boroughs, led by Islington Council, to challenge the Mayor of London in court over the affordability of rents in the capital.

Councillor Fiona Colley, cabinet member for regeneration, said; "We have challenged the Mayor’s decision because this is a vitally important issue for an Inner-London borough like Southwark. Councils need every power possible to ensure rent levels are appropriate and affordable for their residents.

"Maybe there are some areas of London where rent levels of 80 per cent of market rent are affordable to most people, but they certainly aren't in Southwark.

"The implication of the Mayor's decision is that councils will have little power to make sure new affordable housing is really, genuinely affordable for local people."

London boroughs take Mayor to court over 'affordable' rent

Nine London boroughs are bringing a High Court challenge against the Mayor of London in a bid to protect genuinely affordable rents for local people.

Islington, Camden, Brent, Enfield, Greenwich, Lambeth, Southwark, Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils are challenging the Mayor's Revised Early Minor Alterations (REMA) to the London Plan.

For many years, boroughs have been able to ensure new affordable housing is provided at rents local people can afford. Typically, in inner London that is 30-40 per cent of market levels.

However, the Mayor is seeking to impose 'affordable' rents in new housing of up to 80 per cent of the market rate, refusing to allow boroughs to negotiate lower rents that local people can afford.

The boroughs will argue that rents at 80 per cent of market levels will be unaffordable for many local people. They are also arguing that the Mayor of London was wrong to treat London as a single housing market, when there are in fact many different housing markets across the city.

The Mayor's position runs contrary to the advice of an independent Government-appointed Planning Inspector, who recommended that boroughs should keep their powers to set rents in new affordable housing.

The statutory challenge will be heard in the High Court on March 13 and 14.

Cllr James Murray, executive member for housing and development for Islington Council, which is leading the legal challenge on behalf of the councils, said: "Across London, we need to keep rents down in new affordable housing so that people on low incomes can actually afford it.

"That's why our nine boroughs are challenging the Mayor’s decision to let rents in new affordable housing rise to near-market levels. We believe councils should be able to cap rents at lower levels so that the new homes are genuinely affordable.

"The Mayor’s plan would price many local people, especially families on low and medium incomes and vulnerable people, out of large areas of London. It is totally wrong for our city."

The Mayor of London's proposal applies to new affordable housing built in London. Existing council tenancies and the majority of housing association tenancies will be unaffected.

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