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How luxury flats avoid affordable housing regulations

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Thursday 26 May 2016 8.20am
Wake up. These towers make no useful contribution to London or Londoners.
They are symbols in gross inequality and greed, and are owned by the corrupt who have fleeced their own people around the world. Simon Jenkins wrote this article in the Guardian.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/25/london-empty-towers-very-british-corruption-tainted-wealth
Thursday 26 May 2016 11.42am
Pretty weak contribution Jazzy - a grauniad article written by an anti-development, anti-everything miserablist (Jenkins seems to oppose everything being built in London, from the Shard to Crossrail). Plus, I note that this is in reference to a particular tower in SW8.

The contribution made a by a single tower in SE1 (22.6m - 89 affordable properties) has been set out several times above. How is this not useful? If you have an issue with ownership by corrupt thieves and despots, you're not alone, and there is a global push to try to bring this to light (including a public register of ultimate ownership that is being introduced in the UK - the first of its kind in the world).
Thursday 26 May 2016 11.55am
SJAC wrote:
And of course these aren't homes for 'ordinary' people on 'ordinary' wages - they're located in one of the most prime locations of a prime area of one of the world's great cities!

But that's the problem. A community ought to consist of people from all walks of life. Who is to pick up the rubbish that these millionaires indiscriminately drop on the floor? Who is to nurse them when they are unwell? Who is to respond to their queries about their council tax or other council services? Where are the people who provide these essential services to live? It's social apartheid to take money in lieu and to build "poor homes" in less affluent parts of the borough, even if it does generate revenue, when all that is being created is an anonymous cityscape devoid of real people. These developments all lack true character because they are devoid of a community.

The fact of the matter is that the council/its councillors can hold these developers to account but chooses not to, instead doing dodgy deals that aren't in the interests of those who elected them in the first place.
Thursday 26 May 2016 1.08pm
Gavin Smith wrote:
A community ought to consist of people from all walks of life.

Fine. And this small part of the community is where millionaires live. Given that the area is surrounded by housing co-ops and council housing, why shouldn't there be a place for them too? Or are only council tenants entitled to a view of the river?

Your "fact of the matter" is just not supported by the facts. This isn't a choice between holding developers to some idealist level of on-site affordable housing or doing a "dodgy deal". It's about finding an appropriate Balance that provides as much new housing as possible, while ensuring that new development actually takes place. I'm amazed how many people would rather have no new homes at all if it meant that they could stick it to the "rich". Scorched earth idealism - let's all suffer together!
Thursday 26 May 2016 1.17pm
It is supported by hard facts, all of which is freely available in decisions taken by councillors. Admittedly words like "viability" are bandied about.

Let them build their towers/luxury developments but make sure that they provide a reasonable proportion of the properties therein for social housing. That was the idea all along, but it seems to have been diluted along the way. Greedy developers are only too willing to capitulate when there is no other option.
Thursday 26 May 2016 1.47pm
Viability calculations aren't just "bandied about", they're determinations as to whether or not is makes sense to move ahead with a development. I'm sure that they could have created a scenario where on-site social housing was provided (and probably did), but with the substantial additional costs that would be incurred and the reduction in for-sale units that are actually paying for the social housing, we would have been left with a small handful of on-site social flats. Instead we have funding for 89. As soon as someone starts throwing out the "greedy developers" tagline, it's obvious that we're just dealing with a basic ideological opposition to these types of developments.
Thursday 26 May 2016 2.08pm
SJAC wrote:
it's obvious that we're just dealing with a basic ideological opposition to these types of developments.

Not at all. I'm not ideologically opposed to these types of developments. There are examples elsewhere in London where they have been done very well. I am in favour of development and regeneration where it is inclusive and beneficial to all. Sadly, Southwark has a poor track record in that respect. The Heygate springs immediately to mind. There are others, I'm sure.

Unfortunately, terms like "viability" are too often bandied about without any substance to them. If something really was unviable then developers wouldn't capitulate as it wouldn't make business sense for them to do so.
Thursday 26 May 2016 2.31pm
Gavin Smith wrote:
Unfortunately, terms like "viability" are too often bandied about without any substance to them. If something really was unviable then developers wouldn't capitulate as it wouldn't make business sense for them to do so.

Viability is based on forecast and models, so while there will be a fair amount of substance, it's obviously predicated on moving targets so difficult predict with certainty. Not sure I understand your second sentence. If something really is unviable, then developers will absolutely pull the plug. Plenty of developments are canned after years of work for many reasons, including shift in demand, economic uncertainty, lack of available financing, increased construction costs, and yes, planning issues (including costs of s106 and social payments).

It's so easy to criticise councils for not meeting an invented and idealistic target that they've determined before looking into the realities of development costs. The fact that politicians just invent these targets without any basis for how they can be achieved just shows how as an electorate we just want to hear grandiose promises.
Thursday 26 May 2016 2.56pm
I accept that viability is inevitably something of an elusive concept. The point I was really making, probably clumsily, is that developers allow themselves plenty of wriggle room so that there is scope for negotiation.

The figures are not arbitrarily determined by politicians but are based on research by those who supposedly know what they're doing (professors, think tanks, etc). I single Southwark out for special criticism because it seems to have adopted an informal policy of just rolling over and accepting in lieu payments or accepting promises from developers which are then resiled from.
Thursday 26 May 2016 3.15pm
Fair enough. I think that Southwark is a special case though in that it owns such a large proportion of the land in the borough. On-site affordable housing costs so much in terms of additional expenses for the social housing configuration and lost opportunity cost from sales that taking a payment in lieu will usually result in the ability to provide many more units. And odds are that Southwark Council probably owns the site next door anyway, so can just build there. People get up in arms about this though for some reason (as seen here) and I don't doubt that politicians simply appease their voters by spouting whatever they think people want to hear in the first place and facing realities once actually at the table.
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