Just one affordable flat has been built in Westminster out of the nearly 400 luxury flats that have been given planning permission for change of use from office use to residential in the past year.
According to information from Westminster Council, “nine schemes triggered the affordable housing policy with eight of them providing cash in lieu and one not providing any affordable benefits due to viability. Permission was granted for 387 units (70 units been completed and 57 are under construction. One affordable unit has been given permission but this came from a change of use of part of a council estate office to a residential unit.”
In lieu of providing new affordable homes the Council accepted cash of £8,332,425 which it says will be spent on building new affordable homes in north Paddington and Church Street. However, the most recent draft of the ‘Healthier City, Healthier Lives: enabling all people in Westminster to enjoy a healthier city and a healthier life’ (Westminster’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2013-2016) contradicts this approach.
On page 18-19 it sets out the first workstream: Improving health and wellbeing through greater integration of housing, health and social care which focuses on the impacts of overcrowding and poor housing on health and wellbeing. One of the recommendations is;
“Restricting the development of affordable housing in areas which already have a high percentage of social tenants. This will prevent social polarisation caused by ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ parts of the city by encouraging integration of social and market tenure housing Westminster wide.”
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“Westminster Council is allowing the West End to become a playground for the very rich by refusing to insist on on-site affordable housing in new developments. Time after time the Council takes the money on the grounds that they can build more affordable homes in cheaper parts of Westminster. But now Westminster is arguing that concentrating all the affordable housing in cheaper parts of the city is leading to polarised communities! It is clear that Westminster Conservatives are looking for any reason to build as few affordable homes as possible in Westminster.”