Cllr Claudia Webbe with Alan Williams, group development manager with One Group
Published: 13 July, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
HOMELESSNESS campaigners in Islington expressed outrage this week at the opening of a £120million complex dubbed one of the most expensive “affordable” developments ever built by a housing association.
Prospective buyers would have to stump up as much as £2,300-a-month for a three-bed flat at the 274-flat complex in Central Street, Clerkenwell, where prices range from £300,000 to £700,000.
Even under a shared ownership scheme, where you pay part-rent and mortgage rather than full price, buyers would be expected to earn £70,000 annually.
The development, Central Square, which received a £12million government grant and includes 44 council flats, was officially opened on Tuesday by housing association One Housing Group, with developer Mount Anvil.
One Housing maintains the 60 shared ownership flats and 170 private homes are expensive because Bunhill ward on the edge of the City is a rich area.
But ward Labour councillor Claudia Webbe, who criticised the scheme for its lack of real affordability, said the area has one of the highest figures for overcrowding and social deprivation in Islington.
While welcoming the 44 council flats, Cllr Webbe added that she was concerned that rents and prices for the “so-called” affordable homes were way above what the majority of residents, including first-time buyers, could afford.
Cllr Webbe said: “A couple need to be earning double the average wage to afford these properties. Forget it if you are on a minimum salary or a single parent.”
Mayor of Islington Councillor Jilani Chowdhury opened the development, with Cllr Webbe among the first to tour the new flats.
She added: “All the flats are built to a high specification, albeit they are a little small. The council rented properties are set aside from the privately rented blocks. There’s also a three-bed £2million penthouse in a private garden.
“I have huge concerns about the shared ownership element. I can’t see how £700,000 for one of the larger flats can be described as affordable. A nurse on her own couldn’t afford one.
“It makes me wonder which way housing associations are going. Do we define affordable these day as what can be purchased by solicitors and highly-paid professionals?”
Cllr Webbe added that Central Square was a perfect example of why the council must press ahead with its scheme to build new council homes on estates.
But Alan Williams, group development manager with One Group, said “affordable” had to be seen in the context of prices in the capital.
“London is one of the most expensive places to live, and the prices are particularly high in Clerkenwell on the edge of the City,” he added. “Prices might be cheaper if you want to live in, say, Enfield Lock.
“We’ve had teachers, doctors and professionals move in already. But I do accept that what may be affordable to one may not be so to another.”