By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter
A council has launched an investigation after homes that were originally meant to be rented out at low ‘social’ rates appear to have been advertised online for almost £300 per week.
A two-bed flat in Bermondsey was listed on Southwark council’s housing search website with a rent of £295.50 per week last year, research from a legal organisation said.
The property is believed to be one of nine approved as social rent, as part of the 38-home Gutenberg Court development in 2011.
But it popped up on the council’s website in 2021 listed at a more expensive “market-related rent”.
The two-bed flat was said to be priced at £137.88 per week more than the maximum social rent for a two-bedroom property at the time.
In 2021-22, social rents for a two-bed flat were capped at £157.62 per week by the UK government.
The property is one of a number of homes in Southwark that were approved at social rent during the planning process but appear to have then been advertised at elevated prices, according to research by Southwark Law Centre’s Planning Voice project.
A one-bedroom property in the same Gutenberg Court development was advertised on Southwark Council’s housing search website at £261.44 per week last year, according to the Law Centre’s research.
Both the flats in Gutenberg Court were let by the housing association, Paragon and Asra Housing Ltd.
Southwark council is investigating whether some homes in the development are being let at affordable rent (which can be up to 80per cent of market rents) rather than social rents in breach of a Section 106 agreement – a legal document between a local authority and developer.
Emma Solomons, head of housing services at Paragon and Asra said: “We responded to Southwark Council in June to advise that we do not believe there has been a breach of the Section 106 agreement at Gutenberg Court.”
Councillor James McAsh, Southwark’s cabinet member for climate emergency and sustainable development, said: “Residents can be confident that we are leading the way on a robust and proactive template for monitoring affordable housing post-planning. No other authority is taking action on this.
“We have so far ensured that more affordable housing has been delivered than was promised, not less. Of the 188 consented developments since 2002, the council required 6,278 affordable homes, and developers provided 7,754 – more than we asked for. More specifically, delivery of homes at social rent has also exceeded what was required, by over 1,300 units.
“However, we are currently still missing a number of affordable homes promised by some developers on other sites. We’re pursuing these landlords and developers… and we will use enforcement where we can see the agreement has not been upheld.”
A spokesman from Southwark Law Centre’s Planning Voice project said: “Given the desperate need for social rent housing in Southwark, we are deeply concerned about the levels of rent for properties being advertised on HomeSearch.”
Pictured top: Gutenberg Court in Bermondsey (Picture: Google Street View)