Friday 12 June 2015

Say Bye Bye to Affordable Housing

Increased and imminent development in London’s East End will not only change the face of our neighbourhood irrevocably, it will also sky rocket the price of affordable housing.

Looking at Shoreditch alone, the planned development projects of Principal Place, Avarde Garde, Shoreditch Village, TheGoodsyard, The Stage and Norton Folgate will bring 3,051 new housing units across 5.5m sq ft of new residential, retail and office space.

This is alarming for several reasons.

Firstly, what impact will this have on Shoreditch’s affordable housing supply?

All photos by Jason Di-Candilo @billthebadger 

Hackney Council has an affordable housing policywhich was designed to make the best possible use of existing housing and new homes to help address local housing needs and aspirations, and help build mixed, sustainable communities.

It mandates that 50% of all new developments from 2011 must consist of ‘affordable housing’. And when we say ‘affordable’, it is defined as a percentage of prevailing market rates. For example, a one-bedroom flat is considered ‘affordable’ if a tenant pays up to 70% of its market rate.

However, planning guidance produced for The Goodsyard, which will add 3.7 sq ft of residential, retail and office space including up to 2,000 new homes, specifies that 35% of its residential units (or up to 700 units) will be affordable (according to the Londonist May 2015).

The Principal Place is even worse. The development received approval in August 2011 and only 39 of its 243 apartments – which is 13% - are actually ‘affordable’.

The plans clearly have no regard for the affordable housing policy and what constitutes ‘affordable’ is inconsistent.

 Meg Miller, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, recently spoke on the issue and said: “In Hackney more people rent privately than own their property, while the majority rent from a council or housing association. Those who rent privately are spending more than half their wages on rent, whilst prices over the last decade have increased by nearly 125%.”

Aside from those who own their home, everyone else is caught in a trap. Potential purchasers are priced out, private tenants are seeing rents escalate (and many now sharing rooms with strangers), and even social housing rents are difficult for those on the lowest wages.”

The fact that many so called ‘affordable homes’ are out of reach of working Londoners shows that the affordability “criteria” is far removed from reality. The notion of affordable has moved from an income ratio to one focused on market rents. This is nonsense,” she added.

Public services in the borough are also under great pressure at the moment and we want to know what impact 3,000 plus new housing units will have on the system?

 Alex Rhys-Taylor, deputy director of the Centre for Urban and CommunityResearch at Goldsmiths University of London, similarly asks: “Will there be new public services in the area to cater for this? People are waiting three or four weeks sometimes for a doctor’s appointment. They are struggling to deal with [density] at the moment.”

According to the records of property agency Sitrling Ackroyd, which is located centrally to the six development sites, prices have been steadily rising in the East End for some time. In Shoreditch, residential buyers paid an average of £541 per sq ft in 2007, compared with £900-£1,200 per sq ft last year. There are similar statistics for Hackney Central climbing from an average of £359 per sq ft in 2010 to £609 per sq ft last year.

Multiple local groups are vocalising their disdain for the planned developments, one in particular is the East End Preservation Society, which was launched on November 27, 2014. One of the society’s founders, historian and broadcaster Dan Cruikshank declared at its opening event last year that the East End had become “an unsavoury developers’ playground”. He singled out The Goodsyard as a valuable site that had been “sat on” by developers until property market conditions suited them.

 The more we delve into these development projects, what we know for sure is that the scale of change that Shoreditch will see over the next year will certainly be unprecedented and unlike anything London has experienced before.

Call to Action

If you are just as concerned as us, join the East End Preservation Society. Change speaks in numbers so let’s come together to express our dissatisfaction.

Keep on writing those letters and emails too to London’s Mayor Borris Johnson while you’re at it:

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Greater London Authority
London SE1 2AA

Telephone: 020 7983 4100
Fax: 020 7983 4057

Are you just as alarmed as us by the impact on affordable housing in Shoreditch? Tell us why.

Share your thoughts below.


Leah Davies is a purpose-filled writer, human rights activist and coach for budding wordsmiths, who is driven to cultivate change through our stories. Her social business Paper Planes Connect is a place to celebrate our difference and to unite in our sameness. Using her experience as a journalist and international development worker, she supports the social conscious to platform their voice and create change, both big and small.


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