It’s been a few weeks now since the Mayor launched his consultation on “Homes for Londoners”, the draft SPG on affordable housing and viability which is set to become a central tenet of emerging policy underpinning the revised London Plan, to be published next year.
Essentially the Mayor is seeking to move towards the 50% affordable housing target that underpinned his election campaign, though perhaps with a touch more pragmatism than the campaign rhetoric could afford.
As a forward thinking policy to help increase affordable housing supply it should be welcomed and the draft guidance is to be applauded for the manner in which it seeks to address a very real need for increasing the delivery of housing at a level that is affordable for the majority of Londoners.
The draft policy introduces a threshold approach to viability assessment, with developments achieving 35% or more, fast tracked through the planning process. There is increased transparency around open book viability assessment (albeit the detail and pitfalls of this haven’t yet been fully resolved). It also sets in policy the concept of Existing Use Value plus an appropriate premium as the baseline land value.
It is positive to see the acknowledgement that a multitude of affordable typologies can contribute to meeting housing demand. Build to rent is explicitly catered for - a welcomed move - however the adoption of Discount Market Rent and London Living rent models will need to be examined closely though the consultation.
The document contains the frank admission that the ultimate aim of this revised policy position is to embed the increased requirement for affordable housing into land values. It will take some time to achieve this and those that have already purchased land based on a very different policy landscape will now find themselves struggling to make schemes work. This needs to be acknowledged in the final adopted policy or the Mayor inadvertently risks reducing delivery though the introduction of a policy designed to increase supply.