WPA, and sister organisation CPA, have partnered with Centre for London on their latest research ‘Strength in Numbers: Funding and Building More Affordable Homes in London’
The launch of the research was held on Thursday 9 March at Impact Hub, Westminster. The keynote speech was delivered by James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development who also partook in an audience Q&A session. This was followed by a discussion chaired by Jon Gooding, Chairman of the WPA Housing Committee and Chief Executive at Dolphin Living. The panel included:
- Laura Johnson, Director of Housing, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
- Ken Jones, Director of Housing and Growth, London Borough of Waltham Forest
- David Lunts, Executive Director of Housing and Land, Greater London Authority
- Rebecca Sudworth, Director, Strategy and Communications, Peabody
The topics discussed by the panel were on the issues of delivery of affordable housing, where the funding is best placed within the capital and how that will impact the collaborative approach across London. The panel also discussed the impact of increasing land prices and funding issues that restrict building more housing across different local authorities.
The report argues that local authorities should be encouraged to build to meet local needs, therefore it examines how different types of funding for affordable housing could be better utilised. The research also found that partnerships between Central boroughs that have available funding and Outer London boroughs that have land at reasonable prices could deliver up to five times more affordable homes than if that money was invested in the Central boroughs.
To optimise public funding available for affordable housing, the report recommends:
- The government should review housing revenue account borrowing capacity so that it is based on local authorities’ ability to service the debt.
- The government should provide a stable operating environment for council housing finances, including no further major welfare reform, a return to inflation-indexed social rent increases, and a review of the high-value council homes levy.
- The government should extend the period within which local authorities are able to spend RTB receipts, and increase the proportion of the cost of a replacement home that can be funded, and permit the spending of RTB receipts outside of borough boundaries.
- The government should give local authorities explicit permission to spend commuted sums on affordable housing outside of borough boundaries.
- The government should devolve housing benefit to the GLA level, and allow the Mayor to offer guarantees that housing benefit will rise in line with inflation to finance affordable house building.
To foster cross-borough collaboration in delivering affordable housing:
- The GLA should help broker formal borough partnerships in housing delivery, and use its policies, powers and resources to facilitate and encourage collaboration.
- The GLA should incentivise collaborative affordable housing delivery through more flexible or enhanced levels of grant for consortia of local authorities, together with housing associations and private developers.
- The Mayor and London boroughs should develop a more strategic London-wide approach to building new affordable housing, embedded in the London Plan.