Commission to scrutinise Waltham Forest affordable housing numbers

New figures reveal only five per cent of almost 9,000 Waltham Forest homes built in the last decade were available at social rent.

Social rent homes, typically rented by the council or a housing association, are available for around 50-60 per cent of local market rates, while other “affordable” housing can be as much as 80 per cent of market rates.

Of the 8,889 homes built in the borough in the last ten years, around a third were rented in this more expensive “affordable” category or through the shared ownership scheme.

Last week, council leader Grace Williams announced the council would set up an independent commission to scrutinise its affordable housing delivery, arguing her party has a “proud record” of building good quality and affordable homes.

But she also admitted “we need to do more” and promised the commission would help deliver quality and affordable homes “even in these tough market conditions”.

Since the announcement, a council spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that no further details will be announced until late November.

Socialist Party campaigner Nancy Taaffe said the shortage of affordable housing in the borough is a “twin-demic” due to both reduced council housing stock and a “captive” private market.

She added: “It’s like the wild west, with young people having to outbid each other. There’s a need for a massive expansion in council house building.

“Unless you have a stable stock of council housing and iron-fist regulation in the private rented sector, then it’s all a form of private accommodation. Shared-ownership is rubbish – people are getting double whammies now with mortgages and rents going up.

“For last 20 years, [the council] has been involved in [housing] stock transfers to housing associations like L&Q, then it supported mixed tenures like at Marlowe Road Estate.

“Every time changes have taken place, public ownership has diminished and private has increased. At the same time we’ve seen massive speculation in the private sector with rents rocketing and rights plummeting.”

The council housing waiting list currently stands at more than 7,000 households, despite thousands dropping off the register in recent months.

In the “pipeline” of 8,000 homes that currently have planning permission in Waltham Forest, only fifteen percent are classed as social housing or London Affordable Rent.

Overall, 42 per cent of those homes are classed as “affordable”, meaning anywhere up to 80 per cent of market rent or shared ownership, below the council’s 50 per cent target.

At this year’s local election, the local Labour Party pledged to build “1,000 new council homes” over the next four years. The council’s website, last updated in November 2021, promises 2,000 new council homes by 2026.

Speaking on behalf of the Conservative group, Cllr John Moss said the Labour leadership has “failed to deliver” homes that local people on average salaries can afford.

He also noted that the draft Local Plan has yet to be accepted by government planning inspectors, who have questioned its planned rate of new homes.

He added: “We doubt yet another ‘commission’ will resolve this but, if it is to go ahead, it should have democratic oversight from councillors of all parties.”

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter