Jennette Arnold
London assembly member for North East London — fighting your corner at City Hall
Mayor accepts defeat in battle against housing crisis

Mayor accepts defeat in battle against housing crisis

Mayor Boris Johnson has accepted defeat in the battle to tackle London’s housing crisis, after setting a target to build just 42,000 new homes a year. Boris Johnson has set the target despite his own evidence showing that 62,000 must be built to clear the backlog on housing waiting lists in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest and across London within ten years.

The house building targets were included in alterations to the Mayor’s controversial London Plan which were pushed through last week despite the majority of London Assembly Members, including me, voting against the proposals. Ms Arnold said the Mayor’s “unambitious” target would leave the capital stuck with an ever-deepening housing crisis. Particular concerns were raised that the affordable housing targets within the plan, for only 17,000 new affordable homes a year, would come nowhere near to meeting the needs of Londoners.

Despite setting a target for 42,000 new homes each year, the Mayor recognised that tens of thousands more were necessary to meet London’s growing housing need. Instead of including these in his target, the Mayor has said he expects Local Authorities to make up the difference but failed to give any strategic direction as to how councils could achieve the 20,000 extra homes that are needed to bridge the gap.

The vote came in the same week that the capital’s population hit record limits, reaching 8.6m for the first time. It also came a week after a new report from the Chartered Institute of Housing found that 76% Londoners now believe there is a housing crisis in their area.

By setting a house building target well below what his own evidence shows we need, the Mayor is accepting defeat in the battle to tackle London’s housing crisis. Boris Johnson’s complete absence of ambition could lock us into this worsening housing crisis for years.

We need creative and ambitious solutions if we are to successfully tackle the capital’s housing crisis. These targets completely underestimate the need for new housing in areas like Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest and offer no new plans on how the Mayor proposes to increase the number of homes being built. In Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest and across London, we need to see genuinely affordable housing being prioritised. What we don’t need is yet more overly-expensive luxury flats which most Londoners could never afford.

Boris Johnson has had seven years now to come up with a plan to tackle London’s housing need, instead we’ve seen rocketing house prices and rental charges, and not enough homes to meet demand. This was the Mayor’s final opportunity to put in place a legacy which would leave London able to build its way out of this housing crisis. He has failed to do so and sadly it is people in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest and Londoners in general who will suffer as a result.

Notes

At the Plenary meeting on 6th February 2015, 14 Assembly Members voted against the plan and 8 in favour. To overturn the Mayor’s London Plan would have required a 2/3 majority.

New polling from the Chartered Institute of Housing shows that 76% of Londoners think there is a housing crisis in their area.

The Mayor’s own evidence base found that 62,000 new homes per year would be required to clear London’s backlog of housing need within ten years or 49,000 within twenty years. Despite this the Mayor’s alterations to the London Plan propose building only 42,000 new homes per year. The evidence base is available at The London Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2013 (p6).