Nine London councils have lost a High Court challenge against Boris Johnson’s affordable rent policy.
Last year the Mayor amended his planning and development framework to allow rents of up to 80% of the market rate to be classed as “affordable”. He also removed the freedom of local councils to set their own affordable rent levels.
Sir Edward Lister, Deputy Mayor for Planning, later told London Assembly Members that councils were free to subside rents if they wished to, but that developers were being put off by having to deal with 32 separate rent policies across the city.
Critics claim the changes will make many areas unaffordable to those on low and modest incomes.
An attempt by opposition AMs to block the changes was unsuccessful after failing to secure enough votes.
Labour-controlled Islington, Camden, Brent, Enfield, Greenwich, Lambeth, Southwark, Hackney and the independent-controlled Tower Hamlets councils then joined forces in a High Court challenge against the Mayor’s policy.
However the Court rejected the challenge, ruling that the Mayor’s policy was consistent with national guidelines and that he was entitled to class London as a single house market.
Mrs Justice Lang said: “I consider it is unarguable that the Defendant’s strategy is so misguided or flawed that it will effectively prevent the Claimants from making appropriate provision for affordable rented housing.”
She added that although the Mayor’s strategy “may be open to legitimate criticism”, it was “plainly within the band of reasonableness.”
Cllr James Murray, executive member for housing and development for Islington Council, said: “There is a need right across London to keep rents down in new affordable housing so that people on low incomes can actually afford it.
“We took this case to the High Court because we wanted to be able to set lower rents limits across the board, and so we are disappointed that this judgement may make it harder to do that.
“But the judgement does recognise that boroughs can keep fighting for lower rent levels in individual developments, particularly where there’s no funding from the Mayor, and so it looks like there will be many more battles to come.”
In a statement, Sir Edward said “maximising the delivery of affordable homes in London is the Mayor’s top priority” but insisted different rent caps in each borough “would have significantly constrained financial capacity with the potential to shut down affordable housing supply.”
He added: “While I am pleased that the High Court has fully vindicated our position, it is deeply regrettable that taxpayers’ money has been wasted bringing this case to court. The important thing now is that we all work together to meet London’s pressing housing needs.”