Dramatic fall in affordable housing in ELL boroughs over past decade

Housing estate in Hackney. Pic: Alan Denney

By Rebecca Robinson and Isabel Jackson

Despite lofty promises of thousands of new homes, Hackney, Lewisham, and Tower Hamlets have seen significant decreases in their yearly affordable housing completions over the last 10 years.  

Croydon, was the only Eastlondonlines borough that increased its affordable housing completions over the decade; from 583 in 2011-2012, to 814 in 2021-2022.  

The data, published last week by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Governments, included homes funded by the Greater London Authority. 

Affordable housing covers social, affordable, and intermediate-rent homes, and low-cost home ownership.  This does not include social housing owned by councils.  

The first graph shows the affordable housing completed across the four ELL boroughs over the last decade. The second graph shows the affordable housing completed in the whole of London.

Both Lewisham and Tower Hamlets have seen a drop of over three quarters in its affordable housing completions in 2021-2 compared to 2011-12. The number in Hackney has also dropped by two thirds in the most recent year compared to 10 years ago.

Social rent is subsidised by local authorities at a rate set out by the Government. Affordable rent is set at up to 80% of the market rent price. Intermediate rent is for homes rented from a Housing Association or Registered Social Landlord and mainly funded by the Government. Low-cost home ownership schemes are for people who cannot afford to rent or buy a property in the open market.

Affordable housing in the four boroughs over the decade. Chart: Isabel Jackson
Affordable housing completions in London over the decade. Chart: Isabel Jackson

According to a report from the Greater London Authority, London needs £4.9bn a year between 2023-24 and 2027-28 to deliver the required affordable homes for Londoners. 

Dorset Estate, Tower Hamlets. Pic: Justinc.

Tower Hamlets experienced the greatest decrease of affordable housing completions of any borough in London over the past 10 years. Just 464 homes were completed in the past year, compared to 1,812 in 2011-12.  

The number of completions also nearly halved over the past year, with the borough experiencing a drop from 804 in 2020-1. 

Andrew Wood, secretary for the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Planning Forum told ELL: “We build more new homes than anybody else in the country…and we also achieve higher affordable percentage than most of the country…so cumulatively we are one of the biggest deliverers of affordable housing.” 

He said: “We get very little of the government’s money for new affordable homes because…historically we did not need the subsidy to build.” Wood also criticised the council’s initiatives to build affordable homes as “plagued by poor delivery.” 

Tower Hamlets Council did not respond to ELL’s request for comment. 

Adelaide Wharf apartments, Hackney. Pic: Robin Stott.

Hackney had the second largest decrease of the ELL boroughs in affordable housing completions - from 1,033 in 2011-2012 to 310 in 2021-2022.

Mayor Philip Glanville tweeted in response to criticisms over a lack of affordable housing: “We’re doing what we can to create genuinely affordable housing options for everyone … But I know that we’ll never be able to meet the huge demand across Hackney or address the affordability crisis alone.” Glanville called for more funding from the Government to increase affordable housing provision: “I’ll keep calling on Govt to address the root causes of the housing crisis & give us in Hackney the powers, tools & funding to deliver even more.” 

A spokesperson from Hackney Council maintained this: “we could do so much more if the government would finally take seriously the role of councils in building new homes … They must ardress the lack of proper funding.” 

Hackney resident Gale Kalamazad criticised this sentiment, calling out the council: “Hackney council housing department need to be investigated for violations in everything they do.” 

Honor Oak Estate, Lewisham. Pic: Malc Mcdonald.

Though Lewisham saw an increase over the last year – from 63 to 201, 63 was the lowest annual number of completed affordable homes of all four boroughs over the 10 years.  

The borough has also made the least progress of all ELL boroughs in achieving the targeted number of residential completions as laid out by the Mayor of London’s ‘London Plan 2021’. This year they have built 39.4% of their 1,667 target.  

Ahthya Maratrovic, a Lewisham resident, criticised this lack of support for low-income people in the borough: “Lewisham is a borough where people desperately need affordable housing … Most of us don’t live here by choice but by necessity.”  

A spokesperson for Lewisham Council said they are “committed to tackling the housing crisis”, but “[the] pandemic, increased construction costs and recruitment shortages” slowed down housing delivery.  

Lewisham Watch, a group that scrutinises the council, claimed affordable housing completions were inaccurate in a recent tweet: “Lewisham’s extremely dodgy (by which we mean completely made up) approach to housing targets continues.” They alleged the council was marking homes as delivered even if they hadn’t been completed.  

Angel Court, Croydon. Pic: Robin Webster.

Croydon saw the highest increase in affordable housing completions in the past year London-wide.  

The number more than doubled from 342 in 2020-21 to 814 in the following year. 

Croydon is the only ELL borough which has increased its affordable housing completions compared to 10 years ago. 

Croydon Council set up Croydon Affordable Homes in 2017, with the “goal of renting out at least 340 local homes costing a maximum 65% of the usual private rent to borough residents by 2020.” 

These homes were planned to be built by Brick by Brick; the council’s property development arm which has become financially unfeasible and was blamed for the council’s bankruptcy in 2020. 

One Reddit user said of the borough’s affordable housing provision: “‘Affordable’ lol. Sure, if you want your home encased in Grenfell cladding.” 

Croydon Council did not respond to request for comment. 

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