- Privateers used legal loophole to scrap plans to build 706 social homes
- New builds could have housed ALL Grenfell Tower survivors
by Felicity Collier
GREEDY privateers exploited a legal loophole to dodge a commitment to build hundreds of social homes in Kensington and Chelsea that could have housed all survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Housing charity Shelter revealed yesterday that developers had won planning permission from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea with a promise to build affordable housing, but later backtracked, claiming that it would eat into their profits.
The tactic — known as a viability assessment — has been used by developers to avoid the council’s policy target of 50 per cent “affordable” housing (which by the government’s definition is housing available at anything up to 80 per cent of sky-high market rents).
A freedom of information request made by the charity showed that out of 96 schemes across Kensington and Chelsea which were granted planning permission over a seven-year period, nearly half used a viability assessment.
Where it was used, the ratio for affordable housing was cut down to as little as 15 per cent, equating to a loss of around 831 affordable homes — 706 of which would have been built as social homes.
Shelter’s chief executive Polly Neate said: “At a time when we desperately need more affordable homes, big developers are allowed to prioritise their profits by building luxury housing while backtracking on their promises to build a fair share of affordable homes.”
In one case within the borough, Cadogan Estates pledged to build 47 homes on the Kings Road, half of which were meant to be affordable — but by using the loophole was able to cut this down to just five.
The viability assessments have not been analysed, as these are seen as “commercially confidential.”
The revelations come more than three months on from the Grenfell disaster, with only 20 out of 196 affected households permanently rehomed.
Labour MP for Kensington Emma Dent Coad, who sat on planning committees for the council for 10 years, told the Star she welcomed Shelter’s report.
She said: “I know all about how developers wriggle out of their responsibilities.
“I will work with Shelter to ensure that social housing takes precedence over profit.”
The findings came as the government’s annually published homelessness statistics revealed yesterday that there are now 78,180 households in temporary accommodation up and down the country — an increase of 7 per cent.
And three-quarters of this number included dependent children and/or a pregnant woman.
The charity Homeless Link said welfare reforms are partly to blame, with the freezing of the Local Housing Allowance. It also cited the broken housing market which has put increasing numbers of people at risk of homelessness and losing their homes.
Chief executive Rick Henderson said: “We must not become desensitised to this serious problem, or forget that these high numbers represent people’s lives in turmoil.
“We urge the government to support the Homelessness Reduction Act with a well-resourced, cross-departmental homelessness strategy that addresses the root causes of homelessness and achieves noticeable progress for the vulnerable people it affects.”