Affordable Homes

MQT on 2012-09-19
Session date: 
September 19, 2012
Question By: 
Tom Copley
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Do you support the Government's proposed affordable housing holiday?


Answer for Affordable Homes

Answer for Affordable Homes

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am not in favour of a policy that basically lets developers get away with not doing any affordable homes at all, and by the planning meetings, everything that is referred to me, we are as tough as we possibly can be in insisting on the highest proportion of affordable homes that we think the development will bear. Making sure that the developers do honour their obligations to London. It is tough at the moment and frankly it has been getting tougher. We do not want the best to be the enemy of the good, and you will understand that there is always a trade-off. You do have to compromise and there are plenty of projects green-lighted in very good times by the previous mayor where they had a very small proportion of affordable homes. Sometimes that is necessary to get the thing going.

One thing I will not accept, and this is a growing problem, I think it is wrong for a local authority to decide that they will accept a cash payment in lieu of building new affordable homes. We are now insisting that there is a concrete plan to build new affordable as part of the deal, even if it is off site.

Tom Copley (AM): Thank you for that answer, Mr Mayor, but I want to have a look at your own record on affordable housing. Government figures show that only 718 affordable homes were started in the last quarter, which is the lowest figure for ten years. What is going wrong?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Those figures are misleading, if not wrong. What I can tell you is that in the first four years, in spite of the deepest recession for 50 years, we did complete 54,000 affordable homes. We think that we are on target to complete about 100,000 over two terms, probably more. We exceeded the 50,000 target that we set ourselves the first time around and we think that we can do so again.

Tom Copley (AM): I will just repeat the question, Mr Mayor, because I am not sure if you heard it.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I did hear the question. You asked me what has gone wrong and I answered that nothing has gone wrong.

Tom Copley (AM): I asked you why only 718 affordable homes were started in the last quarter.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I will repeat my answer, in case you were not here or were not listening. Nothing has gone wrong. I do not think those figures reflect the reality of what is happening, and we are confident that we can continue in London to deliver tens of thousands of new, affordable homes. Indeed, I think that we need to go further and faster and to make sure that we put public land into the mix, we make it available for development and we build more affordable homes.

Tom Copley (AM): Mr Mayor, let me just stop you there. Are you telling me that the Department for Communities and Local Government, and Eric Pickles' (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) figures, are wrong?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What I am saying to you is that they are misleading insofar as you have concluded from them that --

Tom Copley (AM): Are we being misled by Eric Pickles, Mr Mayor?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think that you are perhaps guilty of allowing yourself to be misled but let me put it no more strongly than that, Tom. I would not want to accuse you of a narrow misconstruction of some figures for party political ends, but what we are doing and indeed what we achieved over the last four years is to build a record number of new affordable homes. In spite, by the way, of introducing new Parker Morris [minimum space standards] plus 10% room sizes and insisting on a high proportion of family homes.

Tom Copley (AM): This is turning into a party political broadcast for yourself now, but perhaps if you do not believe Eric Pickles' figures, we should have a look at some other figures which are from the Homes and Communities Agency, which show that in the last year affordable housing starts fell by 74%.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What you need to look at, Tom, is delivery.

Tom Copley (AM): I am looking at delivery. It is here in front of me. It is available online for Londoners to see.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have sat here for more than four years now being told by you guys that we were not delivering any affordable homes and at the end of the day we did 54,000, it was a record, and I am very confident that we will continue to deliver tens of thousands of new, affordable homes.

Tom Copley (AM): At your current rate, Mr Mayor, and this is 18 months into the new funding round of the Affordable Housing programme, it will take you 16 years to deliver the homes that you say you are going to build by 2015. It will take you 16 years at the current rate. Can you tell us what the problem is?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I can tell you there is no problem.

Tom Copley (AM): There is no problem?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No.

Tom Copley (AM): You are going to build? You are going to build these homes by 2015?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. We are going to build these homes and look at what we did last time, look at what is going on around London. I am not denying that there has been a considerable recession caused by the Labour Government and its mishandling of the economy, but London is bucking the trend and we will go on with delivering a programme and, to get back to my answer to Stephen [Knight], will deliver not just new homes for Londoners who need to live near their place of work but will create tens of thousands of jobs.

Tom Copley (AM): Well, Mr Mayor, there are fire-fighters, there are police officers, there are teachers, there are paramedics, who work in London who cannot afford to live here because of the state of affordable housing and I think if they knew that affordable house building has slumped to its lowest level in ten years --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think it would be very sad if you were to be misled by some Labour scaremongering into thinking that we were not doing our level best to build tens of thousands of new, affordable homes. We have built more --

Tom Copley (AM): We will be more disappointed by your answer than my questions, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We have built more affordable homes over four years than the previous mayoralty did at any stage. We are on target over a four-year period and we are on target to deliver 50,000 more and perhaps more than 50,000. I accept your complaints and your scepticism. All I would point out is that I have heard it before, and I heard it throughout the last four years and you were proved wrong.

Tom Copley (AM): It is because you have not answered our questions, Mr Mayor, but I will leave it there.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think I have answered your question, but we will leave it.

Darren Johnson (Chair): We will then move on to the next question on the order paper which is on Police numbers in the name of Joanne McCartney, asking how you are going to maintain numbers, given Government cuts.