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Tuesday 15th October 2019

Khan he do it? Will the new mayor of London deliver affordable housing?

Streatham High Street
Credit to Reading Tom via Flickr

Sadiq Khan, new mayor of London, swept to a landslide victory last week. One of his key commitments was a target to make 50% of all new homes affordable, but can he do it?

I’ve spoken before about living in Streatham, and the affection I hold for this little pocket of South London. I’ve also whinged (at length) about the fact that everyone else caught on to the fact that it’s a pretty cool place to live right at the point that I started to think about buying. Bastards. Prices have rocketed in the last 18 months, and the average one bed flat (according to Rightmove) now sells for over £360,000.

You can tell it’s not for the likes of you and me because the studio flats are being marketed as suites.

Streatham has a long and proud history. It was once known as the West End of South London… in the inter-war period it had a theatre, three cinemas, and The Locarno – the first purpose-built ballroom in England, and at times, played host to both Miss World and Come Dancing (now Strictly). But the area declined pretty rapidly – as evidenced by the fact that by the late 90s, The Locarno was more famous for its illegal boxing matches and lap dancing than its illustrious past.

But as I said, things are on the up… The site of the Locarno has been acquired by a developer, and is now being converted into a fancy-pants complex of apartments. You can tell it’s not for the likes of you and me because the studio flats are being marketed as ‘suites’. Personally, the term suite makes me think of hotel rooms, leading me to worry I would be provided with a clapped-out kettle and a few sachets of Nescafe gold blend in place of a fully functioning kitchen, but maybe that’s just me.

I asked: ‘How much of the development will be devoted to ‘affordable’ housing?’ He then scarpered.

A friend of mine (who’s slightly more enterprising than myself) managed to wangle an invite to the ‘soft launch’ of this new development by London Square. It was at a hotel in town just behind Selfridges. I was a little worried about attending to be honest. I had visions of being turfed out on arrival, as clearly I’m not a Russian oligarch looking to add to my property investment portfolio – but my friend reminded me there would probably be free food and drink, so I decided it was worth the risk.

It was rather a glitzy affair. Working in mediaaaa, I was in my jeans and Converse. Everyone else was suited and booted, and looked like they were on their way to a christening/wedding/wake [delete as appropriate]. We were approached immediately by a young and rather handsome young gentleman, who shook our hands and began waxing lyrical about high spec kitchens, under floor heating and on-site gyms. When he finally paused for breath, I managed to ask the one question I’d come for; ‘how much of the development will be devoted to ‘affordable’ housing?’ At which point he turned a quite remarkable shade of purple and literally scarpered.

I don’t suppose these suites will be ‘affordable’ by a regular person’s definition of the word.

I’ve been doing some research since, and am yet to uncover any concrete information on what proportion of the 250+ residential units will be ‘affordable’ – all the website offers is a vague assertion that the scheme will include the ‘delivery of affordable homes… compliant with GLA [Greater London Authority] guidelines and standards.’

I don’t imagine it will be very many, and I don’t suppose they will be ‘affordable’ by a regular person’s definition of the word, but perhaps I’ll be surprised. There are no clear guidelines set by government on what constitutes as affordable. It can be determined by median incomes in the area and/or average property prices in the area. The latter means that affordable in Streatham could be a two-bed for £400K (which is the cheapest you’ll get on Zoopla right now in Streatham). The government has a definition of affordable housing here but it’s fairly vague. I really hope Sadiq Khan can deliver on that 50%… In the meantime, I’ll continue attending marketing launches for new developments – but only for the vol-au-vents.

Update: A spokesperson from London Square said ’40-plus’ apartments would be made available as affordable housing. Further details, including the value of each affordable home, will be released in 2017.

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Andrew Williams

Andrew Williams

Mouthy Blogger

Runner, tired of London but not life. Waging war on landlords.

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