Boris Johnson’s decision to class rents of up to 80% of the market rate as “affordable” is to be challenged in the courts by nine London councils.
Last year the Mayor amended his planning and development framework both to remove the freedom of local councils to set their own affordable rent levels as well as to increase the level at which a rent could be classed as affordable.
Critics say the changes will make many areas unaffordable to those on low and modest incomes.
The Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Sir Eddie Lister, last year 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 separate rent policies in each borough.
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 have partnered with the independent Tower Hamlets to bring a High Court challenge against the Mayor’s policy.
The boroughs argue that rents at 80 per cent of market levels are unaffordable for many local people and that the Mayor was wrong to treat London as a single housing market.
Cllr James Murray, executive member for housing and development for Islington Council, said: “Across London, we need to keep rents down in new affordable housing so that people on low incomes can actually afford it.
“That’s why our nine boroughs are challenging the Mayor’s decision to let rents in new affordable housing rise to near-market levels. We believe councils should be able to cap rents at lower levels so that the new homes are genuinely affordable.”
City Hall insists the Mayor’s planning framework complies with national policies and guidelines and says half of homes built between 2015-18 will be “capped at low levels” with “half set at up to 80% of market rents”.
A spokesperson said: “The Mayor wants to maximise the provision of affordable housing across London, whereas allowing boroughs to impose individual rent caps would significantly constrain financial capacity and have the potential to shut down affordable housing supply.
“As part of the Mayor’s record 100,000 low cost homes programme affordable rents across the capital will be at or below 65 per cent of market levels on average, and are capped at housing benefit allowance levels, offering a range of different options for low income Londoners.”