Vacant Building Credit will cut affordable housing

Analysis by Lambeth council suggests that had the government’s controversial Vacant Building Credit been operational, a third of the borough’s affordable housing provision would have been lost.

Based on 14 recently consented major schemes , predominantly in the Vauxhall regeneration area, the council has calculated that instead of a the current total of 866 affordable units, if VBC had been applied, this figure would have been 592 – a 32% reduction.

Currently the council seeks the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing when negotiating schemes. On sites of at least 0.1 hectares or capable of accommodating 10 or more homes, at least 50% of units should be affordable where public subsidy is available and 40% without public subsidy, subject to viability.

The introduction of the Vacant Building Credit in November 2014 means the council will now only be able to require affordable housing on any increase in floor-space to a vacant building.

Cllr Matthew Bennett, Cabinet member for Housing said:

“These figures show this as yet another example of the government’s incoherent approach to the housing crisis in London which seems to be about searching for headlines, rather than real solutions.

“This week’s announcement about starter homes is a non-starter as far as Lambeth is concerned and we now know the Vacant Building Credit will add to the pressure on affordable housing in inner London where most sites have existing buildings.

“It offers land owners an incentive to empty buildings prematurely meaning jobs and business opportunities will be lost. The development industry had not asked or expected this measure and now need to work out how to react with very unclear guidance. The only people likely to gain will be landowners who have effectively been handed a big windfall they didn’t expect or need.”