Councillor James Murray: 'In Islington, we have said that all our council homes, including the new ones we are building, will remain at social rent and on secure tenancies'
Published: 29 June, 2012
by TOM FOOT
THE Town Hall delivered a strong political message over its social housing policy this week after councillors agreed to secure fair rents and tenancies for life.
Islington Council became the first local authority in the country to actively reject new freedoms that are paving the way for a dramatic rise in social housing rents across the capital.
The Conservative Local Government Minister Eric Pickles has allowed cash-strapped councils to boost dwindling coffers by raising social rents to up to 80 per cent of private market levels – and scrapping the principle of a home for life.
The Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson has said, in his “London Plan”, that the “affordable housing” in new-build developments can be rented at this higher rate.
But Islington wants social rents to remain at fair levels – around 30 per cent of the amount paid by private-renting tenants – and said it will not scrap secure tenancies.
Labour housing chief Councillor James Murray said: “The key policy that puts us in conflict with the Mayor of London plan is the element of us saying no to ‘affordable rent’.”
He added: “In Islington, we have said that all our council homes, including the new ones we are building, will remain at social rent and on secure tenancies. We are the only borough in London to require developers and housing associations to build new homes for social rent instead.” The government classes anything up to 80 per cent of the market rate as an “affordable rent”. An “affordable rent” for a two-bedroom flat in Islington would cost around £300 per week, while the current average council rent for a two-bedroom property is around £100.
The details of the council’s plan were debated in the Town Hall on Tuesday night.
In documents submitted to the meeting, the office of the Mayor of London expressed concern over Islington’s “non-conformity” and called for changes to the council’s development policies. But in a report to the council, officials said: “It is considered the Mayor’s formal opinion does not carry considerable weight.”