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Thursday, 12 July 2012

Wilmer Place and affordable housing


Labour Councillors in  Stoke Newington Central, Lordship and Clissold wards have today written an open letter to Newmark Properties calling for the proposed development at Wilmer Place to include the highest number of ‘affordable’ homes as possible. The letter also calls on Newmark to clarify what action they will be taking to support the existing tenants of Wilmer Place who face losing their homes and places of work if the proposed development goes ahead.

Below is a copy of the text of the letter that has been sent.

You will be aware that the developer is proposing a mixed residential and commercial development. At the recent public exhibition is was proposed that the development would consist of 68 flats (14x1, 33x2 & 21x3 beds) – an increase from 44 flats in the original plans. A critical issue that is yet to be resolved is the proportion of this that will be ‘affordable.’

For all developments comprising 10 residential units or more Hackney has a borough-wide target requiring 50% of all units to be ‘affordable’. This should include a mix of three-bedroom (or larger) family housing.

Like any development, the precise number of ‘affordable’ homes is subject to negotiation. In the letter we call for the Wilmer Place development to include the highest number of ‘affordable’ homes as possible - and for as many of these as possible to be made available for social rent.

Copy of the Letter to Newmark Properties:

11 July 2012

Dear Mr Cohen,

RE: Proposed Development of Wilmer Place, Stoke Newington

Following the second public display of the plans for the Wilmer Place development we are pleased that many of the issues we raised last year have been taken on board. However, there are still a number of important issues and concerns that we would like to see addressed, in particular around affordable housing.

From the plans that were on display, we understand that the current proposal is for the development to include 68 flats in total (14x1, 33x2 & 21x3 beds). However, a critical issue that is yet to be resolved is the proportion of this that is proposed as ‘affordable.’

Given the high level of market rents in Hackney, and the demand for affordable housing – particularly family sized, it is important that any new development on Wilmer Place recognises and seeks to meet this need. We would welcome more detail from you on what you are proposing is the breakdown of affordable housing for this scheme – in particular the numbers of units for social rent, ‘affordable’ rent and shared ownership.

Hackney Council’s guidelines are that for all developments comprising 10 residential units or more 50% of these should be ‘affordable’. This should include a mix of three-bedroom (or larger) family housing.  The Council has also published guidance stating that the mix of ‘affordable’ homes in new developments should be a minimum of 25% social rent and 75% affordable (40% of which should be ‘intermediate’).

You will be aware that the Government’s Affordable Rent Model allows rents to be charged up to a maximum of 80% of the market price. This is considered to fall within the definition of ‘affordable’ housing for planning purposes. As market rents are particularly high in Hackney the Council recently published guidelines on the levels of ‘affordable rents’ in the Borough: up to 70% of local market rents for a 1 bed property; up to 60% of local market rents for 2 beds; up to 50% of local market rents for 3 beds; and up to 50% of local market rents for 4 beds.

Given the shortage of affordable housing in our area, if the development goes ahead we urge you to ensure that the highest number of affordable homes possible is achieved in this development, and that the as many of these as possible are available for social rent level rather than the ‘affordable’ rent model. We are aware that these issues will be subject to detailed negotiations between you, a partner housing association and the Council, but we want to stress the importance of the local targets set out above.

The second issue we would like to raise with you regards support for existing tenants of Wilmer Place. We are aware that the existing properties on the site have always been leased on a short term basis. However, now that a planning application is imminent it appears that little is being done to help the people who face losing their homes and places of work.

We would like you to outline what help and support will be given to existing tenants of Wilmer Place, if your proposed development goes ahead, and how you intend to handle this process in terms of notice, compensation and support for relocation.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.



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