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Loophole for City developers should not be tolerated

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Last week, I was deeply shocked by revelations that property developers lodging planning applications to the City of London Corporation were exploiting a legal loophole to lower their social housing contributions to the Corporation.

The revelation by the Corporation’s Planning & Transportation Chairman, which was helpfully covered in issue 053 of City Matters, means that the City have missed out on over £24.5m from developers unethically trying to protect their profits.

In a further affront to the City, the profit-saving loophole allowed developers to skirt around the City Local Plan guidelines of incorporating a compulsory 30% affordable housing on-site or 60% equivalent on another site. In the long-term, this will mean that the City will fall behind the rest of London and the UK in providing adequate affordable housing provisions.

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As outlined in the piece, five out of nine planning applications didn’t offer the obligatory proportion of affordable housing in their development (therefore incurring a social housing payment). However, these developers were able to use a loophole that allowed them to use ‘viability assessments’ to demonstrate that the compulsory level of social housing would damage their profits, making the entire development project unviable.

I have nothing but gratitude for Cripplegate’s Mary Durcan CC for raising this issue in the Court of Common Council and appreciate Chairman Christopher Hayward’s acknowledgement of the situation.

However, we should not tolerate the continued existence of this exploitative loophole in the City’s guidelines any longer. Affordable housing in the capital is becoming ever scarcer so we cannot permit developers in the City to bypass their commitments to build more affordable dwellings.

If elected Alderman, I will lobby my colleagues on the City’s Planning & Transportation Committee to close the loophole immediately before any other developers can exploit it.

The City must act now, or we risk pricing those on medium to lower incomes from living in our great City.