Last week, London Citizens launched their Affordable Housing League Table of Developers: a league table which shows the percentage of affordable housing built by eight of the biggest developers in London.
A part of Citizens UK, the national community organising movement, London Citizens is made up of churches, schools, universities, mosques and charitable groups. Last Thursday, a delegation made up of members of these varied institutions attended the shareholder AGM of one of the developers at the bottom of the league table, Taylor Wimpey, to ask the firm to increase the numbers of affordable homes it is building in the capital. After all, London is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis and it’s something we all need to take responsibility for, including developers.
Nearly everyone in London knows something of the pain of London’s deepening housing crisis, and the struggle to find somewhere to live. Whether its rogue landlords, children being supported by parents or people being priced out of the city, it’s an issue that affects almost everyone and provokes anger across the city.
London Citizens has been acting to try and change that. Last year the group developed a Good Development Standard which the mayor, Sadiq Khan, adopted at a 6,000-strong London Citizens Assembly at the CopperBox Arena in May 2016. As part of his pledge to adopt the Standard, the Mayor said he would rewrite the London Plan — the Mayor’s planning bible — to ensure that at least 50 per cent of development on public land is genuinely affordable.
London Citizens has had success at a local level after this with a campaign in Newham. A new development was set to be built with zero affordable housing. The group met with councillors, MPs, the Cabinet member from the Council, and the developer – and moved Galliard Homes from 0 per cent to 35 per cent affordable. The campaign won 300 homes worth over £100m on the Boleyn Development. These homes will now be let at 50-70 per cent of market rent.
A year on and London Citizens are taking our call for more affordable homes direct to the developers now, and asking them to ensure all new developments include a minimum of 35 per cent affordable housing. Last week we launched a league table of housing developers ranked by the percentage of affordable housing. A couple of developers produce over the 35 per cent affordable mark; but the majority are delivering less than 30 per cent affordable housing in these new developments. To tackle London’s affordable housing crisis, developers need to do more.
One look at the league table will tell you that some developers are delivering on affordability while others are not. The line on the table marks those who are responsibly producing over 35 per cent affordable housing in new developments from those who don’t. Taylor Wimpey and Berkeley Homes are the bottom two only producing 28 per cent affordable.
The league table. Data Source: GLA London Development Database, planning permissions proposing 50 residential units or more completed between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2016. Top 8 developers by residential units.
At the launch of the league table, London Citizens members shared stories from all corners of London on why they had been moved to action and how they had been personally affected by housing in London. As you’d imagine there was no shortage of stories.
Dawn Savidge, Bloomsbury Baptist Church’s community minister, spoke of her work with young adults trapped in terrible renting situations and held to ransom by rogue landlords.
Then the leaders, who bought shares to enable them to become shareholders and gain access to the AGM, headed into the meeting to raise the issue directly with other shareholders and Taylor Wimpey themselves. In the meeting they spoke to shareholders on why the issue of affordability matters so much to our communities across London.
During the questions at the AGM, The Reverend Dr Simon Woodman, a local Baptist minister, asked a question directly to the shareholders explaining the league table, and requesting a meeting to work on the 35 per cent demand.
Taylor Wimpey responded positively in the meeting and agreed to meet with us about the issue for affordability. If London’s housing crisis is going to improve we all need to take responsibility for trying to change it.
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