Mayor answers to London

London Housing Company

[Supplementary question]

Question number1341/2011
Meeting date18/05/2011

Question by Mike Tuffrey

But here we are now in your fourth and final year. Can I remind you of your manifesto. You talked about the LDA having land for 30,000 units. When I last quizzed you on this, you wrote to me in February saying not that 30,000 houses had been built on LDA land under your watch but since you were elected just 1,400 starts had been made. Are you not missing a huge opportunity? Have you not been missing a huge opportunity to sort out London’s housing crisis?

Answer by Boris Johnson (1st Term)

Mike Tuffrey (AM): But here we are now in your fourth and final year. Can I remind you of your manifesto. You talked about the LDA having land for 30,000 units. When I last quizzed you on this, you wrote to me in February saying not that 30,000 houses had been built on LDA land under your watch but since you were elected just 1,400 starts had been made. Are you not missing a huge opportunity? Have you not been missing a huge opportunity to sort out London’s housing crisis?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As you know, we have done fantastically well with building affordable homes in London. Yes, we could go further. Indeed, I would like to see public land generally made available in London. I would like to see a bringing together of public land held by all sorts of public bodies to create this London Housing Company. It has not been easy to achieve that. You find that the accounting officers in the various departments are extremely jealous of their fiduciary duty to maximise value. That is the difficulty that we face and you will understand the problem. But there is real scope for progress. Do not, by the way, run away with the idea that 1,500 or whatever it is on the LDA --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): It is 1,432.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Thank you, 1,432 is all that we are going to achieve on LDA land. There are fantastic projects for development, particularly in the Royals where we have secured an enterprise zone. Already I am seeing amazing projects for development there.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): That is the point.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Actually, rather than moaning about the comparatively abstruse point of the London Housing Company, you should be hailing and celebrating what we have achieved on building affordable housing in London and you should be recognising that by getting --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): But my point, Mr Mayor, is that there are these fantastic projects but they are still sitting on the drawing board three or four years in.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): But we have built more affordable homes --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): The London Housing Company was the model that you put out there and you have been talking about relentlessly for the past two years and here we are with still no sign of a mechanism to unlock the public land - and, yes, with the national land as well as the HCA land and the LDA land - and it is not happening. Can I ask you, when is your much-vaunted taskforce going to report? We were told it was going to report on 16 February and then you said the end of April. Now we are in the middle of May. When is the Sir Peter Rogers taskforce going to actually report?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Sir Peter Rogers has arrived in City Hall. What is happening --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): No, the taskforce that he is chairing that was promised for February. We are now in May. Is this going to be another one that takes years before it comes up with an answer?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What you are talking about is what we have effectively achieved by getting the Government to give us simultaneous control and co-location of the HCA assets and land and the LDA land.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): We know all of that. We are now set up.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We have now achieved your nirvana but we have brought it here in City Hall.

Mike Tuffrey (AM): We know all of that. My question, Mr Mayor, was not about that. My question was about the housing investment taskforce that started work under Sir Peter’s chairmanship last November and was promised for 16 February. I have it here in black and white. Then you promised the end of April. Now we are in the middle of May. Where is the report from the taskforce? When is it going to be published?

Jennette Arnold (Chair): Can we have a quick answer to that question, Mr Mayor?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): When we have finalised the arrangements for integrating the HCA and the LDA into this current body, I am sure we will be producing a report for your benefit on how we are proposing to maximise the value of the land. I think in the meantime what we should do --

Mike Tuffrey (AM): What we are waiting for is the big, glitzy announcement to cover up three years of lack of action. Thank you, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): On the contrary, what you have is a quite extraordinary level of delivery in affordable housing.

Main question

Mike Tuffrey