Comment: ‘Affordable housing’ will actually mean something if Sadiq Khan is mayor

Zac Goldsmith's solution to the housing crisis is to back the government's disastrous policies


Tower Hamlets has long played its part in delivering affordable housing for Londoners, consistently delivering high numbers of new and affordable homes. Under the last Labour Government’s historic levels of investment people had a better chance at a decent home – and they trusted what ‘affordable’ meant.

But since 2010, the Tories have redefined ‘affordable rent’ as homes that cost up to 80 per cent of the market rate. We have seen the number of new genuinely affordable homes decrease, and ‘affordable’ has been stretched beyond all common sense understanding of the word. The current government and their candidate for Mayor of London, Zac Goldsmith, have taken the term ‘affordable’ to breaking point – it now includes homes for sale at £450,000.

Like many others in the capital, Tower Hamlets residents need a Mayor who understands London’s housing market, understands London’s economy, and understands that 80 per cent of market rent and £450,000 homes are not affordable.  Sadiq Khan has put affordability at the heart of his manifesto and already made bold decisions about the housing policies he would pursue.  

In Tower Hamlets, we share Sadiq’s belief that building genuinely affordable homes is key to the tackling the housing crisis. Since John Biggs was elected as Mayor last summer, Tower Hamlets Council set up an Affordability Commission to look into what Tower Hamlets residents can really afford.

We found that a couple earning an average income, with two junior school age children, pay £146 a week for a housing association social rent on a two-bed flat. The government’s so-called ‘affordable rent’ home at 80 per cent of market rent for this family would be £354 a week – forcing the family to claim £189 a week in Housing Benefit and paying 45 per cent of their income in housing costs.

Meanwhile a household with one earner on minimum wage and three children needing a three bed home would pay £425 a week for an ‘affordable rent’ home, again forcing them to claim housing benefit and paying 54 per cent of their income in housing costs.

The truth is that in the private rented market, it is so easy to let homes as flat shares, with adult earners in every room, that any household with children will struggle to compete.  Added to that, incomes haven’t risen at the same rates as rents, causing an ever-widening gap between what families can afford to pay and what the market is demanding.

Our residents desperately need to see real investment in genuinely affordable housing, not a continuation of failed Tory policies. Zac Goldsmith’s answer to London’s affordability crisis is to back the plans from his bosses at Number 10 and 11 to implement ‘Starter Homes’ – homes for sale at up to £450,000.

We know they’re not affordable for most Londoners, and even some developers are expressing concerns about their impact.  The absence of any meaningful policy on what genuinely affordable renting really means for Londoners shows how out of touch Goldsmith is with their day-to-day lives.

Sadiq knows that London needs a housing policy for all, which recognises that London’s economy is at risk if we don’t solve the housing crisis.  Crucial to London’s success is its mixed communities where people can afford to live a reasonable distance from where they work and where their kids go to school.  But Zac Goldsmith and the Tory Government he will be working for would jeopardise this great aspect of London life.

Sadiq’s target for 50 per cent of all new homes in London to be genuinely affordable would create new communities in London. Tower Hamlets residents would benefit from Sadiq’s commitment to genuinely affordable homes and a ‘London Living Rent’ based on average incomes and not the local market.  The London Living Rent would help families to save for deposits, rather than get trapped in private renting, with rents increasing faster than wages.  

Sadiq has always said that this election is a referendum on housing and he has the ideas, the understanding, and commitment to deliver homes that Londoners can genuinely afford.

Cllr Rachel Blake is a Cabinet Member for Strategic Development, Tower Hamlets

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5 Responses to “Comment: ‘Affordable housing’ will actually mean something if Sadiq Khan is mayor”

  1. Sally

    This is not very informational.
    We already know that the poorer the person or family, the greater percentage of their income is spent on housing.
    But what does Sadiq mean by ‘genuinely affordable’? How much is ‘genuinely affordable’?
    And if this is based on ‘average incomes’, that means very little if the top ten percentile is included in the maths. It would be more transparent and more helpful if the price of affordable homes were based on the median income of those in the lower and median tax bands.
    I am also unclear what he means by affordable rents. Again, very thin on details, and not much on whether he refers to social or private housing.

  2. Jogga Teidy

    Problem is, a square mile will only support so many people.
    Also there is competition between those who can afford and those who cannot.
    City is already overcrowded, space is at premium and cannot be devalued.
    Ordinary people struggle to live in the city, yet we place open prisons within it. This produces unsafe environment, so while we can house more, the quality of life is poorer.
    People cannot be accomodated infinitly in a finite space, so there has to limits to population control, this area will house this many, so build outwards, link up quality transport.

    Silly having social housing in prime space which should be used by those who are able to afford it and create wealth, taxes of which can service social housing sector.

    Remember all this shortage is caused by governments, selling of and not managing housing associations well?

    Those who bought their council homes have more sense, they r renting them out, not living in them?

  3. Imran Khan

    Rachel. Where in Tower Hamlets are you going to build these houses? I’m serious. I really would like to know.

  4. Gavin Stevens

    Sadiq talks the talk, but I’m not convinced it’s anything but hot air yet. I have not seen any firm proposals about how he plans to increase affordable housing stock and it is a very difficult thing to achieve in London.

  5. Muhammad Haque

    As can be seen, I am posting this comment shortly after 0100 Hrs GMT on Monday 18 April 2016.

    I am posting this to ask the questions I list below to the person whose name appears as the author of the main piece:

    1. You say: “Tower Hamlets has long played its part in delivering affordable housing for Londoners, consistently delivering high numbers of new and affordable homes.”

    a. Do you use “long” to cover the periods 1965 to 2016 [to date] or do you mean parts of the period/s?
    If parts, which part/s do you “associate with” and which one/s do you “disassociate from”?
    b. Most specifically, do you include the period May 1986 to April 1994 [when the then SDP “Liberal Focus Team” and later and generically] known as the Lib Dems] were in official Party Political control of Tower Hamlets Council?
    c. What do you mean by “affordable homes”?
    d. Do you mean “affordable” as available, within the means of those with significant, substantial disposable income and or de facto credit in the banking sense of the phrase so that they can put in the requisite sums of money or the de facto collateral sums in order to enter the process and complete it for them to own or securely occupy a “home” in each case that is implied in your plural use of the concept of home?
    e. In making the claim in the first sentence of the piece published in your name, did you rely on demonstrable, manifest and accessible evidence based on the empirical lives in the context of housing of the necessary numbers of people in Tower Hamlets – the numbers being in the thousands to justify your published assertion?
    2. You say in the second of the two-sentence first paragraph:
    “Under the last Labour Government’s historic levels of investment people had a better chance at a decent home – and they trusted what ‘affordable’ meant.”
    a. What are you referring to by “people had a better chance at a decent home”?
    b. What are you saying by “and they trusted what ‘affordable’ meant”?
    d. What document or documents published by Tower Hamlets Council on the subjects of your assertions can you name, with dates and authorship, that contain tangible, express and empirical evidence from identifiable person/s in Tower Hamlets – that positively support your assertions, today Monday 18 April 2016?
    e. In your “people had a better chance” part, what administrative behaviour are you referring to that would deliver that “|chance’ and take it to realisation? Have you evidence to support such completed
    entitlements, needs and expectations?
    f. Where and how and with what demonstrably objective, cognitively universal and independent criteria did you compare the supposed alternatives when you used those words and the phrase “people had a better chance”?
    g. What Accountable, independent and Ethical account has “Tower Hamlets” [by which it is assumed in the context of the piece appearing on the Left Foot Forward website with your name as its author, that you are referring to the Administrations of the London borough of Tower Hamlets Council] has published that can objectively support your assertion?
    h. Has “Tower Hamlets” [defined in this context as in “g”, above] “delivered” as you assert, during all the years when “the Labour Party” was or has been in “Party Political control” of “Tower Hamlets Council”? If your answer to this is “YES” then you should be able to back that answer with the full facts showing, transparently, that you did tell the Truth and the whole Truth in making the assertion concerned. Can you publish those full facts? Will you do so? Will you sen that to anyone who lets you have their communication addresses today?
    0144 Hrs GMT
    0244 Hrs UK Time
    18 April 2016

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