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Thousands sit on housing waiting lists as Redbridge Council misses targets

11:04 14 August 2014

Redbridge Town Hall in High Road, Ilford.

Redbridge Town Hall in High Road, Ilford.

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There are almost 8,000 people waiting for a home in Redbridge as the council fails dismally to meet its housing targets.

Its 10-year plan aimed to create 4,525 more affordable homes. Five years on, just 440 have been granted planning approval.

Cllr Jas Athwal, leader of Redbridge Council, acknowledged that the council’s housing stock was low in both quantity and quality, but warned that building new homes would “not happen overnight”.

A Freedom of Information Act request by the Recorder has revealed that the council has only approved a fraction of the affordable homes that it had pledged to.

Out of the 3,048 homes which received planning permission from 2009 to 2014, only 440 were affordable.

Cllr Athwal said: “Some of the problem we have had has been that the previous administration had really no appetite for looking at housing in any real sense.

“It’s something we are looking at. It’s not just affordable housing, it’s housing in general.

“First our quantity is low but our quality is low also. We can’t build houses overnight but we can raise the quality of what we have got – nobody should live in squalor.”

In June this year the council spent more than £2million on temporary accommodation due to homelessness at a time when it is facing budget cuts of £70m.

Since January 1, 25 affordable homes have been granted planning approval.

Mike Gapes, MP for Ilford South, said: “We have a desperate shortage of affordable housing in Redbridge.

“We have a large number of people who are living in overcrowded, inadequate or unsatisfactory private rented accommodation. The previous Redbridge council did not do enough and I hope the new council can do more to deal with this desperate problem.”

In 2009 Redbridge published a planning document setting a target of building 9,050 new homes over a 10-year period, half of which would be affordable.

Five years into the scheme only 14 per cent of homes granted planning permission were affordable.

The lowest number of affordable homes was approved in 2011 when just 20 had permission.

Cllr Keith Prince was leader of the previous Conservative administration. He said the recession meant the council’s targets were not achievable.

Government legislation allows developers to negotiate levels of affordable housing to ensure a scheme remains financially viable.

Cllr Prince said his administration had negotiated to prioritise the number of homes being brought to the market.

“It was very important that we built houses even if we had to compromise a bit on affordability,” he said.

The current leader of the Conservative group, Cllr Paul Canal, said: “It’s an outrage for Jas Athwal to blame us for not building more homes when it was Labour’s recession that decimated the house-building industry and probably cost the country half a million homes.

“We have always believed in providing homes for hard working people. We did all we could in a difficult market to bring new homes on board.

“We also made a bid for money to allow us to bring empty homes into use that was phenomenally successful and provided homes for local families while removing the blight of empty properties.”

Cllr Gwyneth Deakins, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group, in a comment on the Recorder’s website, called on the council to “take some risks and go for imaginative and large-scale developments to make any impact on this crisis”.

A spokesman from Redbridge Council said: “Creating more affordable homes is a priority for us and we know that it’s key to building a sustainable future for the borough.

“We are working hard to ensure that we get the most amount of affordable housing from each development in the borough.

“However, this has to balanced with each development’s viability. If developers are forced to adhere to targets that are too high then the projects themselves will not be profitable and the developers will not go ahead with them.”

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