On Tuesday, Lambeth councillors are meeting to make an important decision about the provision of social housing in the Barratt Homes ‘Brixton Square’ mega-development on Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9.
After Barratt Homes tried to wriggle out of their social housing obligations last year, Brixton Buzz, Brixton Blog, and this blog teamed up to campaign that the original quota of social housing should be retained in the development.
Sadly, the planning officer responsible has recommended that the social housing provision be changed to ‘affordable’ housing, with rents pegged to rapidly-rising market rates.
The planning meeting on Tuesday will decide if Barratts will be able to get away with this change.
The council has set it so that only three speakers are allowed to speak for and against the application, but a big presence at the meeting in Room 8 in the Town Hall at 7pm will send out a loud message about the importance of social housing in Brixton.
UPDATE 23:40PM 12th March:
The spineless feckers at Lambeth Council planning committee have approved the change of social housing at Brixton Square to affordable.
By way of background, here’s the joint message posted last October:
Urban 75, Brixton Buzz and Brixton Blog are partnering to protest against Barratt Homes’ application to water down the provision of social and affordable housing, including the conversion to ‘affordable rent’ tenure of 13 social rent flats, at its new development ‘Brixton Square’, on Coldharbour Lane.
While a social rent would be fixed with a secure lifetime tenancy, an ‘affordable’ rent means the tenant would pay roughly 55% of the open market rent for the local area, which is liable to go up over time. As gentrification continues apace in Brixton and property prices rise, this will make it increasingly difficult for low income tenants to live in the town centre. Affordable tenancies are also likely to mean fixed term contracts (rather than longer-term security), after which the rent can be put up again. It is therefore extra important to conserve social rented properties at the heart of Brixton.
Lambeth, if it allows this variation, will set a precedent for other large schemes in central Brixton in the future. Lambeth Council is in danger of allowing the demographics of central Brixton to be changed by allowing a definition of affordability in Section 106 agreements that is not in fact affordable when compared to social rented property.
Permission was originally given to Places for People to build the ‘Brixton Square’ on the basis of having socially rented housing in 2005. Barratt Homes argue that the economic situation has changed so much it is now not possible to fulfill that promise. However, we note that Barratt Homes bought the site in the knowledge of the Section 106 agreement only last year (well after the 2008 crisis) and that in Brixton specifically the housing market is not deflating.
We also urge the council to ensure that the provider of the rented units is a registered social landlord, as is stated in the original Section 106. The Section 106 agreement should not be changed to widen this to include affordable housing providers, which are in effect private, for-profit landlords.
Developers like Barratt Homes claim that developments are less financially viable with social rented units included. Unlike developers, however, we are concerned more for our community than big profits, and we hope this is the case with Lambeth’s planners too.
For more background to this story, please read the in-depth discussion on the urban75 forums – and get involved!