‘Affordable housing’ in Waltham Forest: Labour councillors talk up their alleged achievements, but the data on completions is still dismal

(cartoon courtesy of WOOX)

It’s been widely reported that some Labour councillors are bragging about a supposed breakthrough in the local provision of ‘affordable housing’.

Politicians habitually will trim to their advantage, obviously, but in truth this new claim is incomplete without careful contextualisation, as a glance at the data demonstrates.

To start with, it is important to underline that, as previous posts have noted, the word ‘affordable’ is vague and often used confusingly, but what’s referred to as ‘affordable housing’ in fact encompasses housing let at four different rent levels, two, called Intermediate Rent and Affordable Rent, which aren’t really affordable at all, especially where demand for housing is strong, and two, called London Affordable Rent and Social Rent, which are specifically aimed at the less well off, with the details summarised here:

Bearing that in mind, what does the data show?

The most up-to-date published figures summarise all housing completions in the borough, year by year and broken down by category, first those that have been built for market rent, and then those that are in one or another way designated ‘affordable’:

To summarise, over the past 11 years, 

  • two-thirds of all completions have been for market rent; 
  • only one-third of all completions have been in the four ‘affordable’ categories, nowhere near the 50 per cent target that LBWF has repeatedly promised; and
  • though there has been an upturn in London Affordable Rent and Social Rent completions during 2021-22 and 2022-23, over the period as a whole such completions made up just 7.6 per cent of the total.

It is worth noting, too, that in these years:

  • because Labour consistently won local elections with absolute majorities, it had wide leeway over housing budgets and targets; 
  • LBWF’s financial position, whilst not optimal, was fairly stable; and
  • officers and councillors responsible for negotiating with private sector developers about the amount of ‘affordable housing’ in their schemes potentially could drive a hard bargain, since Waltham Forest was a property hotspot, attracting widespread commercial interest, so competitors were always lurking in the wings.

Something to brag about then?


Related Posts

Why is LBWF so poor at delivering ‘affordable housing’, particularly genuinely ‘affordable housing’?

LBWF housing scandal: just 5 per cent of the new homes built in Waltham Forest since 2012 were classified as ‘genuinely affordable’…and this from a Labour council!

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