Boris’ failure on affordable housing

Boris' incompetence is exacerbating the shortage of housing in London.

Tom Copley AM is London Assembly Labour Group housing spokesperson

At today’s Mayor’s Question Time I challenged Boris on his failure to use his affordable housing budget to help alleviate London’s housing crisis. In total the Mayor committed to spend £283m in 2013-14 to support affordable home building across the capital.

However, last week it was discovered that £120 million had mysteriously disappeared from his Affordable Homes Programme budget.

Housing pressures in London are growing, homelessness is increasing, owner-occupation is an ever more distant dream for most Londoners and private sector rents increased by 13 per cent in the last year.

So it is even more important than ever that Boris uses all of his powers and funding to tackle this crisis. House-building, of all types, is at its lowest level since the London Development Database was established in 2004 – last year just 20,000 homes were built. The Mayor’s target is 42,000, but his own research shows London needs 60,000 each year to tackle current demand and meet the backlog that has built up.

The situation is even more serious, and absurd, as it looks like the way in which the Mayor allocates funding is actively discouraging developers from building affordable housing. The London Assembly Budget Committee has previously stated that:

“The March 2015 deadline in the Affordable Homes Programme may now be acting as a deterrent for developers to start new affordable housing projects. This is because failing to meet this deadline would make the project ineligible for payment from the GLA under this programme.”

The Mayor has already moved £90 million from the Affordable Housing Programme to his ‘Housing Covenant’. Rather than supporting the construction of affordable homes to rent for those on low incomes, the Housing Covenant tends to fund homes for ownership for people earning up to £80,000 per year.

It also tends to fund smaller homes rather than the family-sized homes London desperately needs (homes funded through the Affordable Homes Programme are three times more likely to be family sized than those funded through the Housing Covenant).

I repeatedly asked the Mayor whether he was transferring over any of the £120million underspend on his affordable programme to the Housing Covenant. Each time he failed to answer the question and give this commitment.

This is extremely worrying and suggests the Mayor will continue to divert funding away from helping those on low incomes to subsidising the housing choices of those earning up to £80,000 a year.

On his watch the funding for affordable housing in London has dropped by 60 per cent. Not only has he failed to get a good deal for London, but with the money he did get he has failed to spend a significant portion of it.

This incompetence is exacerbating the shortage of housing in London. It’s time the Mayor started acting like we’re in a housing crisis and got building.

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