An independent report on ‘The Prime Residential Market in Westminster’ by Ramidus Consulting Ltd calls on Westminster Council to build more homes for low and middle income residents, create more mixed tenure developments and do more to tackle the problem of vacant property.
The Ramidus report’s recommendations call on the Council to;
• Deliver, where possible, public sector rented homes for local people and shared ownership homes for local key workers within the borough.
• Westminster should, wherever possible, seek to retain Affordable Housing on site, in order to create and preserve mixed and balanced communities. It should also consider a tiered mechanism for negotiating Affordable Housing provision to reflect land value.
• There is no official source for data showing the extent of wholly or periodically vacant properties. Westminster should initiate a process to collect more accurate data either through Council Tax returns or periodic survey work.
Labour Councillors say that these key recommendations by Ramidus should not be crowded out by the facts and figures of the relatively small prime and super-prime housing market. Labour say that Westminster Council is currently failing on all three fronts identified by Ramidus;
• Not enough social housing is being built to help the 2,000 families in temporary accommodation or those Council tenants in overcrowded conditions. Earlier this week research by specialist fund and asset managers London Central Portfolio revealed that in 2013 40 per cent of new build homes in Westminster were sold to buy-to-let investors.
• The Council regularly fails to ensure that new developments include on-site affordable housing. For example, in June the Council gave permission for the redevelopment of the Canadian High Commission building in Mayfair to provide 41 luxury apartments which contains no affordable housing but will include a gym, swimming pool, banqueting suite and 53 parking spaces. The owners say that on-site provision of affordable housing is unviable and a search for suitable donor sites has been unsuccessful. Instead a financial contribution will be made to the Council to provide affordable housing elsewhere.
• Westminster is one of the few Councils in London which fails to charge the increased Council Tax for properties that have been empty for more than two years. There are an estimated 3,000 empty properties in Westminster.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“The key housing challenge in Westminster is to provide more social housing and shared ownership housing so that people have somewhere locally to live that they can afford. The super-rich have always flocked to Westminster but they should not drive housing policy and we have no need to be grateful to them for buying expensive property in Mayfair and Belgravia.”
“The Council cannot stop the impact of global capitalism on Westminster but residents want some leadership and action from the Council to provide the homes for local people in need. Sadly, we are getting neither from Westminster Conservatives who have allowed prime and super-prime housing to crowd out the housing needs of local people”
See a copy of the report here