Delivering affordable housing in London

On 6th March, we launched a discussion paper Changes to Affordable Housing in London and Implications for Delivery, produced for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and written by Future of London. This paper gives an overview of the London housing market with a particular focus on affordability and the impact of recent policy reforms on affordable housing. It argues that a new, sustainable delivery model for London is needed if the capital is to meet its affordable housing challenge.

The launch brought together senior affordable housing practitioners from across London. Chaired by David Lunts, Executive Director of Housing and Land at the GLA, the speaker panel provided context for the subsequent discussion. Jo Wilson, Director of Future of London, began by summarising the paper’s findings, particularly quantifying that there are issues of affordability across all housing tenures in London, at a time when acute need is growing and supply is contracting. Jo was joined by a panel of speakers and responders who offered a range of perspectives on the topic:

  • Kenneth Gibb, Professor of Housing Economics, University of Glasgow, spoke to international models for delivering affordable housing
  • Andrew Heywood, independent housing consultant, probed emerging questions coming from Future of London’s current research on the Affordable Rent Model
  • Richard Blakeway, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property, grounded the conversation in the Mayor’s Housing Strategy
  • Geeta Nanda, Chief Executive of Thames Valley Housing Association, offered an HA view on delivering affordable housing under the housing policy reforms.

The practitioner audience joined in for a discussion across the range of opportunities, issues and challenges presented by the speakers. There was a common sentiment that we are moving towards a system of self-sufficiency, given the decline in capital grant, and some shared wariness that we will properly deal with the affordable housing challenge without the reintroduction of a more significant subsidy. In the face of this, part of the solution must be attention to new build, and perhaps a more consistent approach to S106 agreements. Alongside this, part of a comprehensive solution must be a better strategy for using London’s extensive existing social housing stock more effectively.

A key question was what the balance of sub-market housing and housing those in greatest need should be, given boroughs’ statutory duty to house its citizens, and the growing mid-market group who cannot access social renting or home ownership. Any new financial model must support housing for an increasing mid-market group, which can be used to cross-subsidise housing for social rent. It should also encourage further local innovation in terms of debt and investment. At the same time, practitioners articulated wide differences between borough assets that complicate the replicability of such approaches across borough boundaries. The successful provision of affordable housing in London needs to be considered from neighbourhood to regional scale, balancing local situations with London-wide issues and targets.

Moving forward, a future affordable housing development model has a number of obstacles to navigate, and it is agreed that more consistent affordable housing policy would be helpful. Given that the Affordable Rent Model is still the principal model for affordable housing provision, our current research into its use and long-term viability should provide useful information for the next spending round. We will be reporting in the summer.

Presentations from the speakers can be found below.