Published: 22 February, 2013
by WILLIAM McLENNAN
A £30million fund secured from property developers in Soho and Mayfair for social housing projects has not been spent in the area.
Developers building projects in the West End ward make payments to Westminster Council to avoid having to include a proportion of cheap-rent homes in luxury apartment schemes. The council allows these payments where they consider social housing is “not practical or viable”.
According to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, a £34.5m pot has amassed in this way since 2000 in the West End ward alone. But just £4.6m has been spent on building 44 low-cost homes in the same central London strip.
David Bieda, a Soho resident who submitted the FOI request, said: “The Soho Housing Association is losing 36 homes in Wardour and Meard streets, leaving a net gain of eight over 12 years. There have been a few smaller affordable housing schemes but also, as protected tenancies fall away, this probably means a net loss.
“Every recent meeting of the Soho Society Planning Group has had applications for new private housing – which is very welcome – but there seems to be an urgent need to address the question of balance, difficult though it may be. We all know it’s more expensive to build in the West End but that is precisely the reason for an effective, affordable, housing policy.”
Payments by developers are revised each year to reflect changes in property prices. In April 2011, developers were forced to pay £185,000 in place of every affordable unit they did not build.
Councillor Jonathan Glanz, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for housing, in an email to the West End Extra said: “The affordable housing fund is there to be used for creating new affordable homes anywhere in Westminster. There is no requirement to build the homes in the wards where the contributions were generated.
“To sit on the money and wait for land to become available in densely built-up wards in Westminster is simply not an option when we have such a pressing need for more homes in the city.”
“The fund is spent on a range of schemes across Westminster, such as for 36 new homes on the Elgin Estate in W9, but also in the West End through schemes on Great Windmill Street and Great Titchfield Street.
“We continue to create affordable homes in the West End, such as the 54 at the former Middlesex Hospital site and the 65 which will be provided at Trenchard House as part of the wider regeneration of Berwick Street.”