Mayor's Oral Update (Supplementary) [16]

Session date: 
November 20, 2013
Question By: 
Tom Copley
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Mr Mayor, you are forecasting an underspend this year both on the National Affordable Housing Programme and the Affordable Homes Programme of more than £120 million, which is a 42% underspend.  Is this incompetence or is there something else going on here?

Supplementary To: 


Answer for Mayor's Oral Update (Supplementary) [16]

Answer for Mayor's Oral Update (Supplementary) [16]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Of course it is not because what we are doing is trying to incentivise completions of new homes.  There was the switchover from the old direct subsidies scheme to the affordable rent scheme and we are now paying by results, which means that we tend to pay on completion rather than on starting.  That obviously affects the appearance of the figures, but we are, as I say, on track to deliver a record number of 100,000 affordable homes over this Mayoralty.


Tom Copley AM:  Why did you budget this money in the first place?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is there to subsidise the completion of new affordable homes.  As I explained, what you have highlighted is what looks like an underspend but is actually money that is going to be paid on the completion rather than on the starting of the homes.


Tom Copley AM:  You have taken this money out of your budget.  Where has it actually gone?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No, it is going to the completion of new affordable homes upon the completion of those homes.  It will, as I say, allow us to continue to build record numbers of affordable homes.  While we are at it, Tom, I might just remind you of your own brilliant analysis of the relative performances of Labour and Conservative administrations in building affordable homes.


Tom Copley AM:  Mr Mayor, I do not think you have clarified for us where this money is going.  Is it not the problem, though, that you have set this March 2015 deadline after which housing associations will not receive any money from you unless they have completed and, because of this rigid deadline, it is making providers reluctant to start new homes because they do not think they will finish them in time and they do not think they will receive the money?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No.  We are confident.  Obviously, we are incentivising it as much as we possibly can and I am absolutely confident that we will achieve, for instance, what we said in the 2012 manifesto, which was 55,000 affordable homes by 2015 for low and middle-income workers.  That is something that is very important.  Even more important, we are going to do 100,000 by 2016.


Tom Copley AM:  Can you confirm, then, that this £120 million which you say only appears to be missing will all be spent on the Affordable Homes Programme?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes.


Tom Copley AM:  Will you also confirm that none of that £120 million is being transferred to your Mayor’s Housing Covenant?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is all going to be spent on building new affordable homes and that is the important ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  Is it going to be spent on building new affordable homes as part of either the National Affordable Housing Programme or the Affordable Homes Programme?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  All I can tell you, Tom, is that that money is going to go toward building more affordable homes in London, which is what people would expect.


Tom Copley AM:  As you know, Mr Mayor, you have a number of different schemes.  The Mayor’s Housing Covenant delivers a different kind of affordable housing.  It generally delivers affordable housing for sale rather than for rent, so I just want you to clarify and to confirm that this £120 million which was budgeted for the Affordable Homes Programme and the National Affordable Housing Programme is going to be spent on completions within those two programmes and will not be moved to the Housing Covenant?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  All I can tell you is that the money is going to be spent on building more affordable homes for London.  There will be a mixture of tenures.  Obviously there will be homes for part‑buy/part‑rent because it is very important.  I do not see why the benefit of the massive increase in the value of equity in the housing market should be reserved only for those who can afford to take out a full mortgage.


Tom Copley AM:  Mr Mayor, it might sound like a minor point, but it is not.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We should be making cheap home ownership possible and we should be widening tenures.  Of course we should.


Tom Copley AM:  Homes built through your Housing Covenant, as I say, are generally for sale and not for rent and they are far less likely to be family-size homes.  Homes built under the Affordable Homes Programme are three times more likely to be family‑size homes.  You have said that you oppose so-called ‘Hobbit homes’, small homes ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We do.


Tom Copley AM:  ‑‑ as do I and there is unity in the Assembly that we need more family-size housing.  This is why it is important, so I will ask you again.  Can you confirm that you are not transferring £120 million from the Affordable Homes Programme into the Mayor’s Housing Covenant?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No, we are using that £120 million to build more affordable homes.  I remind you that we have already delivered record numbers by comparison with the previous Labour administration and we will continue to do so.


Tom Copley AM:  You are now repeating yourself, Mr Mayor.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I will just quote what you have said about Labour’s record in this matter.  You have actually called upon the Labour Party to apologise ‑‑


Tom Copley AM:  Is that why you were fumbling through your notes so frantically?  You were not looking for the answer to my question.  You were simply looking to attack an Assembly Member.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Quite rightly, you called upon the Labour Party to apologise, Tom, and I congratulate you on your visionary comments.  You called upon the Labour Party to apologise for its shambolic performance whilst in office when it failed to build in 13 years in office as many council homes as [former Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher built in one year in 1990.  In 2004, as you brilliantly pointed out, Tom, when the last administration was in office and when they were all sitting there doing not very much, the number of council homes completed fell to - guess what - 130, so I will not take any criticisms about building new homes from a Labour Party that has an absolutely dismal record, as you have been kind enough to admit.


Tom Copley AM:  Mr Mayor, on your watch, housing completions in this city have fallen to the lowest level that the London Development Database has ever recorded.  That is your fault.  That is your record.  You have been Mayor for six years.  You are responsible.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Nonsense.  We are building a record number and you have tried to beat me up about this for six solid years.  Every time, you have been obliged to go away and eat humble pie because we are once again going to defy the sceptics and build a record number of new homes, which is what London needs.  I do not want to minimise the importance of what you are generally saying, Tom, because this is the big issue that faces our capital and we do need to build many more thousands of affordable homes.


Tom Copley AM:  He could answer the question rather than throwing abuse at me.  He is using up my time now.  Can I bring that to a close?  He had a chance.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  However, our project and the way that we are doing it is the right way forward for London.