Tony Pidgley: Political barriers remain to building affordable homes

According to Tony Pidgley, politics and bureaucracy continue to hamper place making and affordable homes April 27, 2016 / Isla MacFarlane
Tony Pidgley: Political barriers remain to building affordable homes

“Housing is ultimately about people. Put people first and the numbers will follow,” Tony Pidgley, Berkeley Group chairman, told Rupert Bates in an exclusive interview at MIPIM in Cannes.

Pidgley, who is nearing the end of this three-year term as president of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), says London’s workers continue to be priced out of the housing market. “The challenge in the capital is that housing is not affordable for the workforce, whether that is renting or buying,” says Pidgley, who has previously served the Chamber as Chairman of the Property and Construction Group.

The Berkeley Group has built around 17,750 homes in total over the last five years, including 10 per cent of new homes and 10 per cent of all affordable housing in London. “London is such a world-class city and the financial capital of the world and yet politics and bureaucracy is still preventing us from getting the additionality we need in terms of homes and jobs,” says Pidgley.

“We need affordable housing so key workers can work in the city and deliver the products and services required. Businesses need to be able to recruit. Housing is a force for good and should be about best value, not best price,” he added.

Pidgley wants a fixed level of affordable housing of 30 per cent for large-scale regeneration sites and for affordable rents to be linked to the average income of the local area. Where this 30 per cent applies, the sites should be exempt from Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), but pay S106 to deliver local infrastructure.

The affordable homes, says Pidgley, should be made up of 10 per cent social rent, 10 per cent Discount Market Sale or extra care and 10 per cent shared ownership.

Berkeley Homes, Perilla House, Goodman's Fields, Public Piazza

Berkeley Homes, Perilla House, Goodman’s Fields, Public Piazza

In terms of the London boroughs, Pidgley says housing delivery is often down to the strength and personality of the individual leader of the borough. “Forget the political colour. The right person can make it happen – the public and private sector working together for the community.”

Pidgley says he doubts he could create Berkeley now, citing impediments such barriers to entry, the lending climate, the red tape and the length and cost of the planning process. “The government must do more to help smaller developers and young entrepreneurs,” he said.

Pidgley called place-making “a craft, not a production line” and said that you cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to planning. Too much regulation stifles creative solutions to meet housing needs across tenures, he said. Pidgley cites the example of Woodberry Down in Hackney where Berkeley is replacing 1,890 flats with 5,500 homes. “It’s this additionality that generates the revenue to pay for the commercial, the public realm, the youth projects, the jobs programmes and all the other things that make a place thrive – a place with an identity, where people feel like they belong.”

The full interview is available in the April 2016 issue of Show House.

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