Yesterday, the housing element of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) Local Plan was subject to examination in public. Members of The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO), who campaigned for genuinely affordable homes as part of the original Olympics Bid, say that the LLDC need to raise the bar in their aspirations for affordable housing on the Park in order to ensure that that original commitment of ‘regenerating the area for the entire benefit of everyone that lives there’ becomes a reality.
Fr Sean Connolly, a local priest with a large congregation of people experiencing housing challenges, said: “It is devastating to see so many of my parishioners living in over-crowded conditions or being forced out of the borough while new houses are being built all around them. While I welcome new housing being built on the Olympic Park, it needs to be affordable and this is a real problem.” The housing crisis in the legacy boroughs is felt across the spectrum ranging from young children living in temporary and overcrowded accommodation, to nurses sharing bedrooms. Local Authority homelessness research from 2018 indicates that whilst the Legacy boroughs constitute only an eighth of London boroughs, they account for a quarter of all households, (5,414 households) placed out of borough. The London Borough of Newham has the highest figures for families placed out of borough, away from their social networks, with local authorities struggling to meet the costs of keeping these families in insecure and overpriced temporary accommodation.
Last year many TELCO Citizens members visited LLDC to hear about plans for the site, but so far the affordable housing commitments have not met the communities expectations.
In response, local community representatives from TELCO are asking the LLDC to introduce a requirement that 50% of all housing in the Legacy area is genuinely affordable by being linked to median household incomes - currently £27,000 across the Legacy boroughs. Community Land Trust housing was a key commitment in the 2005 Olympic Charter and needs to be recognised as part of the intermediate housing offer. Community Land Trust housing remains affordable in perpetuity and is mapped against average local incomes, thus also meeting the Legacy promise of benefitting local communities. Additionally, research has demonstrated that there is a huge gulf between policy and practice.
Dr Penny Bernstock, from the University of West London, and co-chair of the TELCO Olympic strategy team, found that between October 2012 and July 2017, only 19.6% of the housing approved by the LLDC was affordable, falling substantially short of the 35% requirement. Therefore, TELCO are calling on the LLDC to adhere to the requirements of their plan, she said “The evidence is clear, we need to do much more on the former Olympic site to meet London’s affordable housing challenge. Let’s get the legacy back on track and ensure that families are not priced out of the Olympic Park.”