Council misses annual target but says more housing is on the way

Town Hall built less than half of the new affordable homes it hoped to, says report

Friday, 2nd July 2021 — By Constance Kampfner

Councillor Diarmaid Ward IMG_5706

Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward

LABOUR council chiefs say they are set to overshoot a manifesto pledge to build 550 new homes by 2022 – despite Islington missing its own target last year.

The council built less than half of the new affordable homes it had hoped to, according to a new report.

Private developers, however, are on target – 118 new affordable homes were built in the past 12 months by housing associations in the borough.

At a meeting on Monday, Cllr Osh Gantly questioned why the council was not able to keep up, asking: “Why can private developers hit their target, but we can’t?”

Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward put this down to the fact that housing associations tend to work on bigger projects, delivering larger quantities of homes at once, whereas the council is responsible for lots of smaller and more “awkward” projects which “can come through more sporadically”.

But he conceded Islington “should be hitting our target” and said the “new build team are working hard to get the capacity up to 150 new council homes a year”.

Cllr Gulcin Ozdemir said she was concerned so many of the new homes were being built by housing associations, who had been accused of excessive service charges.

Morag Gillie, co-chair of the campaign group Islington Homes for All, told the Tribune service charge hikes are “another way that housing associations act like developers”.

“It’s not just a couple of quid,” she added. “These are huge hikes, sometimes £80 to £100 a month, which complete­ly distort what the rent is and end up excluding people on lower wages or benefits from access­ing social housing.”

Cllr Ward said: “Housing associations have been told by the government: ‘You’re on your own, you’re not going to get any funding any more.’

“I suspect hefty service charges is one of the ways they’ve been making up that shortfall, which is very concerning.”

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