Kingston’s lack of affordable homes

My letter to Richmond Park MP and Mayoral hopeful, Zac Goldsmith:

Dear Zac

Yesterday I was at a meeting of representatives from different faith groups in Kingston, including Christ Church New Malden, Surrey Islamic Centre, Chapel Street, Kingston Liberal Synagogue and St John’s Kingston Vale, among others. The key issue affecting their communities that came out of the meeting was the issue of the cost of housing, whether its young people feeling hopeless about their chances of moving out of home, middle aged parents worrying about where their children will live and the break up of their wider family, or older people concerned about where they could retire to.

As your speech at conference clearly showed – and from our conversations on the subject – you know that housing is the one topic that unites Londoners. Yet, while you have been outspoken about other parts of London you have been reticent to speak out about the developments in Kingston and the utter lack of ‘affordable homes’ (which despite their flaws are all that developers have to offer) included in the many plans for the area and in particular TOPO (The Old Post Office)/Eden Quarter. 

St George’s latest design includes a measly 15% rather than the 50% that RBK states it is committed to in its SPD. For St George to cite viability and factoring in the cost of renovating a listed building are just weasel words, when we know very well that companies like St George look to make a minimum 20% profit on its developments and that in November 2014 the following was introduced by the Government: “a financial credit, equivalent to the existing gross floorspace of any vacant buildings brought back into any lawful use or demolished for re-development, should be deducted from the calculation of any affordable housing contributions sought from relevant development schemes.”

Furthermore, let’s be clear about the extremely healthy state of Berkeley Group’s (of which St George is a part), as given in their annual report 2015:In terms of performance, Berkeley built and sold 3,355 new homes this year at an average selling price of £575,000. This led to an increase in adjusted pre-tax profits of £454.6 million, an increase of 19.6% compared to last year, and a profit of £85.1 million from the sale of a portfolio of ground rent assets, giving total pre-tax earnings of £539.7 million.”

TOPO goes before the Development Control Committee next week for consideration. I implore you to use what pressure and influence you can bring on to both Kingston council and St George to dramatically improve its affordable housing provision. If you truly want to ensure that London has homes that ALL its residents can afford, you should make sure it happens in your own ‘back yard’.