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Council calls for guidance change to help secure affordable homes

Words: Laura Edgar
Viability loophole / iStock-880833360

Islington Council and the capital’s deputy mayor for housing have written an open letter to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), asking the organisation to rewrite key guidance on viability.

This follows a High Court ruling on the issue earlier this year.

The letter, sent by Islington’s executive member for housing and development Diarmaid Ward, and the capital’s deputy mayor for housing and residential development, James Murray, calls on RICS to amend its Financial Viability in Planning (2012) guidance note in line with the court’s judgment.

The RICS guidance considers market value as the appropriate benchmark for testing viability and determining affordable housing contributions.

The council and Murray want the guidance to promote housing delivery, particularly “genuinely” affordable housing, in the future. The letter urges RICS to engage with the Greater London Authority (GLA), local councils and the planning profession to address conflicts of interest and improve communities’ trust in the development process.

But Islington council, among others, has produced its own guidance about how viability assessments should to be used because of serious concerns about how it was being applied in relation to genuinely affordable housing. 

Ward said: “There is a shortage of good-quality, genuinely affordable housing in London, and Islington is feeling this deeply. The council is doing everything it can to help tackle the problem – we have built more new council homes in the last four years than we have in the previous 30.

“But there are still too many families desperately in need of secure, genuinely affordable homes and developers need to do their part.

“Developers should respect local planning requirements and take this into account when purchasing new sites, rather than overpaying for land and then trying to bypass affordable housing requirements.”

Image credit | iStock