Jess Hall from Waltham Forest Citizens gives her verdict on Walthamstow’s Mall redevelopment
Waltham Forest Council has granted permission for a large-scale redevelopment of The Mall shopping centre site in the heart of Walthamstow, with a commitment to provide 20 percent ‘affordable housing’ from the 502 new homes proposed.
It is a small commitment, but a commitment nonetheless. This ought to be good news to someone like me, as I am keen to get on the property ladder but currently unable to do it in the conventional way.
However, these new homes will be for shared ownership, an affordable housing option for which the use of the term ‘affordable’ is questionable. I live in Walthamstow, and by the council’s reckoning I’m pretty much the average resident. According to its facts and stats of the local area, at 36 years old I fit into the average age and earn close to the median income of £30,900 per annum. But it is clear to me that the average house price is well out of my reach, standing at £410,000, making affordable options all the more important.
While I save for a deposit I lead the nomadic life of a renter living from tenancy to tenancy and regularly being forced to move because of decisions made by my landlords to sell, or to not abide by occupancy legislation.
Home ownership means permanency and security, but only affordability will make it achievable. So what does a so-called ‘affordable’ shared ownership option look like here in Walthamstow? According to website sharetobuy.com, a one-bed property in the borough is available in a 50 percent shared ownership deal, with that share worth £180,000. The handy budget calculator then estimates that you’d pay around £902 for your mortgage, £422 to rent the half of the home that you don’t own, plus a service charge of £54 a month. In total you’re looking at £1,377 in housing costs a month which, I can tell you for me would be quite a stretch.
Generally, 30 percent is accepted as a reasonable and a manageable proportion of your salary to pay on housing costs for incomes over £30,000, before other essential items are affected. For the average person in Waltham Forest this proportion of their monthly wage would be £772. On this principle, to be able to afford the 50 percent ownership of the example above, a person would have to be earning in the region of £50,000 per year. How can this be deemed affordable for the average resident?
If affordability is to be genuine then it must relate to the incomes of local people, not to a marginally reduced market rate. The council has options when it comes to affordability. Community Land Trusts provide affordable homes relating to local incomes and have been successful in other London boroughs, including the Mile End site in Tower Hamlets.
Shared ownership is not genuinely affordable and yet it is the only ‘affordable’ offering at The Mall’s development. The council’s decision to approve it doesn’t seem to align with its declarations that the provision of affordable housing for the borough is a top priority.
Until the affordability of home ownership is genuine, local people will continue to live in the insecurity of renting or be forced to leave the borough in search of cheaper options.
Waltham Forest Citizens represents eleven local institutions and 15,000 local people. For more information: