VIDEO: The great Nine Elms swindle – How Wandsworth gave up 4,000 affordable homes

There is a housing crisis in Wandsworth. This affects young people looking for a place to rent, families who need an extra bedroom and anyone who hopes to buy a home in the borough (as I said in this speech to Wandsworth council last October).

The answer is to increase the supply of affordable homes – for sale and for rent. So why is Wandsworth council deliberately throwing away the chance of 4,000 new affordable homes for local people?

We are fortunate in Wandsworth to have the Nine Elms area of riverfront which will be redeveloped to create 16,000 new homes over the next 20 years.

Wandsworth’s Tory council could insist that 6,500 of these homes are reserved for local people to affordably buy and rent.

Instead, Wandsworth has sided with the property developers and decided that just 2,500 homes in Nine Elms will be made affordable for current residents.

This is a dreadful decision. Wandsworth’s councillors are elected to look after local people, not property developers. Neighbouring Lambeth council has already insisted on the higher rate of affordable housing in its part of Nine Elms; Wandsworth should follow their example.

I recently gave a speech in Wandsworth council to draw attention to this situation. It begins at 11mins 20 secs on the video. The text is below.

I am glad the majority party found time for this debate, I think Nine Elms is both important and incredibly exciting.

This will be the biggest thing we will do as councilors.

I would like to talk about who will live in Nine Elms, and to present all members with a choice between two competing visions.

First I should say there is much that we agree with in the council’s approach to Nine Elms: the Northern Line Extension, intensive mixed uses, sustainability to the fore, quality architecture, the retention and renovation of Battersea Power Station

The leader’s vision may be to turn north Battersea into south Chelsea, but I hope we can also agree that moving Stamford Bridge, the Chelsea football ground, south of the river to Nine Elms is a step too far.

But buildings don’t make a community, and Cllr Osborn will say more on this. My question to you is: who will live in Nine Elms.

Wandsworth currently requires developers to provide 15pc affordable housing in all Nine Elms developments, as otherwise almost no existing residents could afford to live in the new flats. We can choose to increase this to 40pc and create an extra 4,000 homes for your residents to buy or rent. This will benefit people of almost every income bracket.

This is not a crazy figure from thin air – the model has been professionally worked up and presented alongside the 15pc model. Indeed neighbouring Lambeth has already opted for 40pc affordable housing in its sector of Nine Elms.

The increase need not affect the viability of schemes. It would however leave the fund towards the NLE around £20m worse off – that’s 2pc of the total cost. This is why the council has rejected the 40pc option.

Wait, what? Were you aware of this decision? 4,000 local people – hoping to stay in Wandsworth to work, to live near their parents or start a family – have been junked to fund 2pc of Nine Elms infrastructure costs? In this housing crisis are these your priorities?

These figures are back on page 199 of a council-backed Infrastructure Study, I’ll summarise the document:

Put plainly: We could choose to provide 6,500 affordable homes in Nine Elms and still collect 93pc of the infrastructure costs. But the council has said, no, we would rather deliver 2,500 affordable homes and collect 95pc of the infrastructure cost.

It’s crazy. But it isn’t an oversight, it’s a strategy: Northern Line funding uncertainty is again and again used as an excuse to allow developers to minimise their responsibilities to Wandsworth.

And £20m for 4,000 affordable homes over the next decade – is a fantastic unit price of £5,000. Those who would invest the HRA debt ‘overhead’ to create affordable housing should look no further.

The current proposal doesn’t represent best value for the Wandsworth council tax payer and I urge you – as a councilor, not as a member of a politicial party – to look into it.

On the Savona and Patmore Estates, in Carey Gardens, I am in favour of ensuring there is a good mix of working people alongside families and older people, and I hope you will join me in seeking the same integrated community in Nine Elms.

This is our last, best chance to help lift up local residents and move away from enclaves of poverty and wealth, and work towards balanced communities in all parts of our borough.

There is a choice to be made in Nine Elms.

As councilors we are not only competent to consider this issue: it is our responsibility.

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