Today Philip Hammond the Chancellor made a big statement aimed to help the young get on the housing ladder with promises to build hundred of thousands of new homes and no stamp duty for the first £300,000 of the cost of a first time buyer home.
At the same time the Tory flagship council of Westminster has just decided NOT to make available affordable homes for young people which it could provide by legally demanding a deal with a developer to provide cash and new homes for ordinary people in the centre of London.
The development around Baker Street by Portman Estates will allow the company to make a mint by building 51 homes, new offices and shops in a part of London where flats easily go for over £1m and much more.
By law Westminster could demand that nearly a third of the homes are made available at affordable (still high) rents to ordinary people and that the developers given £12.5 m towards the council’s own affordable housing fund – this is used often to export the homeless to other cheaper places.
In fact council documents show Westminster is about to agree a deal to accept the wealthy developer’s offer of providing just ten affordable homes ( under 20 per cenr) and contribute less than half the £12.5m the council could demand from them = by agreeing to their offer of £5m.
You might think that this is well par for the course for the council that was famous in the 1990s for the ” homes for votes ” gerrymandering scandal under Dame Shirley Porter. They tried to move out poor families by letting new council homes to the middle class in Tory marginal seats.
But the new feisty leader Nickie Aiken – she gave a good compassionate speech at the Tory party conference in a local government fringe – has made the point of NOT being another Dame Shirley.
She has told the Financial Times in June : “My view is that too many times we have not always pushed back enough in requiring affordable homes on-site, have buckled on viability or surrendered to the idea that brutal market economics simply denies housing opportunities for most people and that is just a harsh fact of life.”
And in case you missed it told the London Evening Standard the same thing in January this year. They reported : She suggested she would do things differently by no longer accepting “cheques” from developers in lieu of building more affordable homes.
“I can tell you there will be a lot more built under me than today.”
Well really – what a hypocrite – obviously not accepting cheques from developers meant they needn’t pay her so much to make even more money.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour’s Business, Planning and Public Realm spokesperson, said:
“Once again the Conservatives prove that they cannot be trusted on delivering new affordable homes for Westminster residents. The Conservatives talk tough but roll over when developers plead poverty on major multi-million pound redevelopment schemes. The Conservatives are giving the go-ahead to more luxury housing and failing those in need of an affordable home in central London.”
If anything he was probably being too polite. The Tory leader is very keen to show a compassionate face for next May’s elections. The trouble is deeds count much more than words for the plight of young people who can’t get homes. Hypocrisy is not necessarily a good vote winner. I bet you don’t see this story in the London Evening Standard.
The full details of the planning application and Westminster’s recommendation are here.