Council's court victory could allow others to cut social housing

A wave of London councils could attempt to reduce their affordable housing targets in the wake of a court decision, housing experts fear.

The high court allowed Hammersmith and Fulham council to abandon its 65% affordable housing target this week.

The council had appealed after communities secretary Hazel Blears had opposed the council’s plan to ditch the target. But she eventually gave way and allowed the court to order the abolition of the policy in the council’s unitary development plan.

The council argued that it had a high concentration of social rented housing but a shortage of homes for low cost ownership. It also claimed the 65% target could have made housing developments unviable in the current depressed property market. Mark Loveday, council cabinet member for strategy, said the previous targets “could potentially have resulted in 65 per cent of nothing being built”.

But the London Housing Federation (LHF), which represents the capital’s housing associations, feared the decision could set a precedent allowing councils to cut back on the amount of affordable housing built in their areas. Dino Patel, regional manager at the LHF, said: “We are concerned this could become a trend. There is still a hug need for affordable and social housing.”