Hackney and Tower Hamlets have joined seven other London boroughs in bringing a High Court challenge against London Mayor Boris Johnson in an attempt to protect affordable rents for local people.
The councils joined Brent, Camden, Enfield, Greenwich, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark to challenge the Mayor’s Revised Early Minor Alterations to the London Plan in a High Court on March 13 and 14.
The REMA are part of the development plan for Greater London and they currently impose affordable rent of up to 80 per cent of the market rate.
The councils objected to this new measure and argued that rents at 80 per cent of market levels will still be unaffordable for many local people. Over the years, boroughs have usually been able to ensure new affordable housing rents are set between 30 to 40 per cent of the market rate.
The Mayor of Hackney, Jules Pipe, said: “This is about making sure that local people can actually afford to live in taxpayer-funded homes built in Hackney in future. I believe that councils are best placed to assess local market rents and what local people on low incomes can afford, and this is why Hackney, together with other councils, is bringing this legal challenge of the Mayor of London’s decision.”
The boroughs also disputed the Mayor’s decision to treat London as a single housing market, when there are in fact many different housing markets around the city.
The Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, also criticised Johnson’s take on the new rental scheme. He said: “London’s rental market is already overheated, and it is vital that we keep rents at a level that people on low incomes can actually afford.
“The Mayor’s plans could price many local people, especially families on low incomes and those who are vulnerable, out of much of London.”
Johnson’s position runs contrary to the advice of an independent government-appointed Planning Inspector, who recommended that boroughs should keep their powers to set rents in new affordable housing.
In a response to the accusations, a spokesperson for the Mayor 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.”
The spokesperson also added that the plan conforms with national planning policy and that rent controls across 33 different boroughs would have the negative effect of driving away vital investment and reduce the number of houses built, exacerbating London’s housing crisis.
The decision from the High Court is waited to be heard.