Borough Targets

MQT on 2009-02-25
Session date: 
February 25, 2009
Question By: 
Nicky Gavron
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor



Answer for Borough Targets

Answer for Borough Targets

Answered By: 
The Mayor

The question is about the indicative housing targets. As I mentioned in my earlier statement, we have reached provisional agreement with 14 London boroughs to deliver over 16,750 homes. The remaining 19 have already identified a further 20,500 affordable homes. That means we have made a great deal of progress in identifying targets during what I think you would agree, Nicky, are extremely difficult circumstances for the housing market.

Nicky Gavron (AM): This is almost the end of the first year and we are talking about the first year of a three year delivery period, not a target setting period. I am concerned that there are so many boroughs that have still not agreed targets. Are you really satisfied with this progress?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think we are making very good progress in very difficult circumstances. I think nobody in their right mind would dispute that the development in the housing industry is in absolute crisis at the moment and it is very difficult to deliver any housing at all. That is why it is so vital that we use the funds available to us - we use the Homes and Communities Agency's budget - to help to drive this thing forward and to help to keep the property market moving as much as we possibly can.

Nicky Gavron (AM): I am just talking really about targets and agreeing targets. Do you think one of the obstacles is that the way the targets are shared across London is not actually doing the job? There are a third of London boroughs - nine happen to be Labour - which are providing almost half of all London's new affordable homes over the next three years - if these targets are agreed - and they are boroughs that are geographically small and have very high densities. I wonder if you appreciate that you are asking the poorest boroughs to take the biggest burden?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It is certainly true that some boroughs are ready to provide more affordable housing than others. On the other hand you have got to look at population growth predictions, you have got to look at the capacity to deliver, you have got to look at the land prices and you have got to look at the potential of each particular borough. These are, as you rightly say, very, very difficult negotiations but I think they are, in very difficult circumstances, actually producing a lot more fruit than people expected.

Nicky Gavron (AM): Are you aware that Conservative boroughs - which are half of all the boroughs - are only being asked to deliver one third of the affordable homes and they are, very often, the biggest boroughs? Even Conservative boroughs are not agreeing to your targets. If we just take Barnet, why are they refusing your target of 3,369?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Nicky, I must say that I think your general line of attack is that we seem to be trying to set targets that are too high. I think that is a perverse thing for you to be arguing. What we want to do - and I thought it was your ambition as well as mine - is to encourage the creation of more affordable housing across London and more decent family sized affordable housing, and to make sure that we give Londoners the housing they deserve for the future. I think it odd that you are cavilling at this and saying that we should relax our ambitions. I certainly do not want to.

Nicky Gavron (AM): I think I am talking about the way the targets are being distributed. I am just saying that Barnet has refused the target of 3,369 and they are hoping to halve the figure. They only built 58 social rented and 8 intermediate in 2006/07; they have the lowest record in London, so I wonder what you are going to do about it?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not want to get into a proxy negotiation with your help between us and Barnet now. Obviously I am sure you have the best possible intentions in this matter. We think that Barnet could provide more housing - and I see Brian [Coleman] probably about to offer a contrary view over there - but I do think that, if you look at the demographic projections for that great borough and you look at the requirements of the great borough of Barnet I think they probably could do with some more affordable housing. But I do not want to get into a detailed negotiation now since that is being handled offline.

Nicky Gavron (AM): I do want to ask, what will you do if they persist in wanting to halve the target?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is what they call a hypothetical question.

Nicky Gavron (AM): Right. The issue is that it does look a bit as though your housing policy is to let boroughs like Barnet off the hook.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think you have really tried two lines of attack here. One is that we are being too soft and the other is that we are being too ambitious. I think you have got to work out which one it is that you really believe, Nicky. The fact is that we have achieved a very significant housing target. We have achieved far more agreement across London than I think possibly the people on my right [Labour Group] thought that we would. I think it is a credit to the negotiators and I hope very much, Nicky, that you will drop your cynicism and support what we are doing.

Nicky Gavron (AM): I do want to persist on Barnet because you did tell me when I was persisting in saying that I thought the 50% target for new developments should be affordable was a better and fairer way of getting a strategic approach to meeting housing need across London. You said, 'When you are inflexible and when you try to bully boroughs nothing gets done. It is when you decide to go ahead, to give them the green light, that you liberate them to build the kind of dwellings that London needs'. I am now wondering exactly what you are going to do about Barnet, which has got the lowest record. I want to know what you are going to do to ensure --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): You seem to be actuated by some deep hostility to Barnet, Nicky, which I find extremely puzzling. It is a wonderful place. I have absolutely no desire --

Nicky Gavron (AM): I think it is wonderful too.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well I think your comments are extremely odd. I have no desire to bully or to berate anybody. I merely observe that we have been extremely successful so far in our negotiations with boroughs across London in producing a fantastic commitment to affordable housing in incredibly difficult circumstances, which I think it is churlish of you not to acknowledge.

Nicky Gavron (AM): Mayor, I am going to leave it at the Barnet test. I want to know if Barnet are going to deliver.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am not going to enter into any discussion of the Barnet formula or how we are going to deal with Barnet in this session now, but I have no doubt that by common sense, wisdom and pragmatism we will persuade Barnet of the wisdom of their needing more affordable housing.