19 March 2016 – by Alexander Peace
UK councils are sitting on almost £1bn of pledged investment from developers to build affordable housing, according to an Estates Gazette investigation.
Developers have been accused of building luxury homes at the expense of affordable housing, but EG’s investigation reveals the other side of the story.
A Freedom of Information request to every council in the UK found that £1.2bn in affordable housing payments had been committed to councils by developers since 2010 but just 20% had been spent.
Councils cited stretched resources and high land values as reasons for only £236m of commuted payments being spent over the past five years.
London’s 11 inner boroughs received more £800m in the past five years – 68% of the UK total – but have spent just 8% of this.
Westminster and Southwark took the lion’s share, receiving £554m, or 47% of the UK total. Southwark has spent £25m of its £163m, or 15%, and said it had large-scale plans in place to deliver affordable housing.
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Cabinet member for regeneration and new homes Mark Williams said Southwark used the funds to buy directly from developers and in-fill on existing estates.
Westminster has spent nearly £26m, which is just 6.6% of the £391m received in the past five years. However, it claimed all of the money had been allocated.
“The council is currently embarking on its largest regeneration programme, which will deliver up to 1,400 additional homes over the next eight years,” said a spokesman.
Commuted sums are recommended under the National Planning Policy Framework only when a council has exhausted all other forms of affordable housing provision. However, between 2012/13 and 2014/15 amounts received have risen by 135%.
“Spending the money is where councils struggle,” said Anthony Lee, senior director of development consultancy at BNP Paribas Real Estate. “Many are not geared up as developers anymore – that skill has largely disappeared.”
Click here to read the full investigation