Speaking to the London Real Estate Forum, Nickie Aiken, the leader of the council, declared that she did not want to “preside over a borough where the housing market is polarised between multi-million properties for oligarchs and council-run estates, with not much in-between”. She admitted that too often in the past the council had failed to push back enough to demand more affordable new homes were built on developments.
Westminster is one of the wealthiest areas in the country, despite a divide between the priciest area (Knightsbridge, with an average sold price of £4.7m according to Rightmove) and the least expensive (Maida Vale, with an average sold price of £640,000).
Developers have been able to get around affordable housing requirements in the past by making payments to councils which will help fund developments elsewhere, but Aiken warned these will not be such an easy option in future.
She said: “Our starting point will be that developments should make provision for levels of affordable housing, either on-site or close by, that meet our expectations. The fact that someone pays too much for a site does not mean that we will allow our residents be short-changed.”
Aiken said that she wants to see 60% of the affordable housing built in Westminster to be aimed at the “intermediate market”, for those who don’t meet the social housing requirements but are struggling to buy a property on their own.
She concluded: “My message is that affordable housing now needs to be front and centre of everyone’s thinking. But let me be quite clear: our business is to ensure fairness and opportunity in housing. Being friendly to business does not mean engaging in some cosy cabal.”