Calls for rent controls as private housing cost soars

A Tory councillor has called for rent controls in the borough
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Some families are being forced out of the borough by the cost of housing
Some families are being forced out of the borough by the cost of housing

An opposition councillor has called for Waltham Forest to introduce rent controls to tackle the rising cost of private housing in the borough.

The average rent for a two-bed home in the borough is £1,350, which is higher than the housing allowance and just under half the average income of working residents.

In the worst cases, residents declared homeless due to the impossible cost of housing have been given heart-wrenching ultimatums by Waltham Forest Council, like moving to the north of England or losing all housing support.

There are ten thousand families on the council’s waiting list for social housing but, the council argues, not enough government funding to build council homes on a large scale.

At a housing scrutiny committee meeting last week, Conservative councillor John Moss argued it would be “entirely possible” for the council to introduce rent controls using section 106, a legal power the councils can use to impose conditions on a development.

He said: “We have freedoms under planning law and that allows us to set up things like Sixty Bricks and tell them what we want to do.

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“The local plan could set an affordable housing [rent] policy, we could… agree with developers what the rent will be.”

Giving an example, Cllr Moss said he had worked with the Walthamstow and Chingford Almshouse Charity to fix rents in new homes it built below housing allowance levels.

However, the council’s commercial director of regeneration and planning Ian Rae said this was unlikely to be possible for big developments, pointing out the council must follow rent levels set by the Greater London Authority (GLA).

He added: “Because large developments are determined by Mayor Khan, those affordable developments are under even more scrutiny by the GLA process.

“In order to deliver the 50% affordability, the vast majority of developments are dependent on GLA grants to ultimately deliver the affordable homes.”

Figures before the committee showed the council hopes to ensure half of the new bedrooms being built around the borough are in “affordable” homes. 

Of the 3,316 homes planned, more than half will be sold on the private market and only one fifth will be social rent, which costs between £372 and £588 a month depending on the number of rooms.

One fifth will be sold through shared-ownership schemes, aimed at people earning at least £35,000 a year and costing £935 to £1,270 a month.

Less than five percent will be affordable rent, which is at least 20% below average market rent levels and is usually managed by housing associations or private developers.

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