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Southwark Council takes action on affordable homes promises

21 December 2022

One of very few authorities nationally, Southwark Council, is taking action on landlords and developers who do not fulfil their affordable housing commitments.

In 2015, a complaint accused Southwark Council of not following up its Section 106 agreement to provide social housing on one of its developments, post completion. While the reasons were complex and tied to legal agreements with the provider which could not easily be changed, this was true; Alongside most other authorities nationally, the council was not retroactively checking that developers did as they had agreed on quotas once the homes were built.

Southwark Council agreed, wholeheartedly, with the complainant. It is not acceptable for landlords or developers to deprive people in the borough of the housing they need. The council welcomed the subsequent review and carried out annual audits in 2021 and 2022, this was a complex process with legal documents and data spanning over 15 years. Southwark will continue to audit going forward.

The data is collated and published online. Southwark Council continually updates its website with information about properties, wards, housing associations and more. This is the most comprehensive set of data provided, in a very transparent online way, by any borough in the country. Where information is missing or not provided, the council’s planning enforcement team investigate.

Following on from the previous complaint, a further Ombudsman investigation looked into Southwark's response from 2016, to see if the council had followed up on what it promised in terms both of transparency and if it had indeed set up an annual audit of S106 social rented homes, and that they continue to be let at target rent. In this instance, the Ombudsman found in the council’s favour.

Cllr James McAsh, cabinet member for climate emergency and sustainable development, said: “This piece of work needed to happen, in order to hold landlords and developers to account, ensure the council is doing all it can to deliver promised social housing in particular, and give residents confidence in the planning process with far greater transparency.

“And residents can be confident that we are leading the way on a robust and proactive template for monitoring affordable housing post-planning. No other authority is taking action on this, and I am sure there are councils up and down the country who are missing out on the homes they required for their residents.”

“We have so far ensured that more affordable housing has been delivered than was promised, not less. Of the 188 consented developments since 2002, the council required 6278 affordable homes, and developers provided 7754: more than we asked for. More specifically, delivery of homes at social rent has also exceeded what was required, by over 1300 units. However, we are currently still missing a number of affordable homes promised by some developers on other sites. We’re pursuing these landlords and developers on not providing the required affordable housing quota and we will use enforcement where we can see the agreement has not been upheld or where there is no response to us.”

“Delivering on affordable and social housing promises is a great challenge faced by authorities nationally, with rising interest rates and costs of construction spiralling. It is therefore imperative that we achieve all agreed affordable housing post-planning, wherever we can.”

Page last updated: 21 December 2022

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