Lewisham Council has been urged not to conflate social rent with “so-called affordable” rent.

The council classifies London affordable rent as ‘social housing’, which is, in relation to older builds, about 50 per cent more expensive than social rent and not linked to the lowest earners in the region. 

However, the council stressed this figure is based on borough-wide rents of all social housing, “most of which is 60 years old”.  

Social rent with new builds will be on average more expensive and just 10 per cent lower than London affordable rent. 

Following up his member’s question about the council’s definition of social housing at full council on February 26, Bellingham Councillor Alan Hall asked that Lewisham join housing charity Shelter and adopt a new definition of affordable housing.  

Shelter has found that for a two-bedroom home, an average London affordable rent would cost £690 a month, which is “nearly £200 more every month than an equivalent median social rent letting”.  

In a recent post, as part of a call-to-action campaign in the run up to the Mayoral election, the charity said there is a “chronic lack of social housing” in the capital. 

“Just 534 additional social homes were delivered in London last year – a decrease of 95 per cent compared to 2011/12, in which more than 11,000 properties for social rent were delivered,” according to the post.  

Cllr Hall said: “As someone who grew up in social housing – I went to Turnham Primary school with Ian Wright and David Rocastle – I know how important social housing is. 

“Will the cabinet member support campaigners who asked for an end to the use of so-called affordable rent homes set up to 80 per cent of market rents, establish a new definition of affordable housing linked to the income of people in the lowest earning quartile, and would he join Shelter who this morning began calling for the next mayor of London to develop a strong social rent policy within the London plan and end the conflation of social rented housing with other so-called affordable housing tenures?” 

The cabinet member for housing, Cllr Paul Bell said the council classifies London affordable rent as social housing.  

He said: “London affordable rent is what we consider a social rent and it is something of which we can develop and get more council housing from. 

“I share with you the thanks for council housing because I would have been homeless if it wasn’t for a council flat when I was younger.  

“In terms of how we develop our housing manifesto moving forward with the Mayor of London, of course we’ll talk to all campaigners about it but it’s really important to note that conflating affordable rent with London affordable rent does no one any justice because affordable rent can, as you say, be up to 80 per cent market rent.  

“London affordable rent is a social rent as far as this council considers and it’s contained in a planning document about genuinely affordable rents.” 

Cllr Bell added that “the terminology around rents can be compicated”. 

“A formula of which is also complicated because we all know that properties which are from the 60s and 70s, which is predominantly our older stock, are at a different rental value of the new build properties which are always higher so, yes, I will consider anything that is brought to me and give a response,” he said.