London's housing crisis

MQT on 2016-03-16
Session date: 
March 16, 2016
Question By: 
Darren Johnson
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Have you left London's housing situation in a better state than when you first took office in 2008?


Answer for London's housing crisis

Answer for London's housing crisis

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Thank you.  Yes, Darren, indeed, by the end we will have delivered 100,000 new affordable homes - 14,000 more than the previous Mayor - and above all helped 52,000 people into home ownership with the part buy/part rent First Steps scheme.  We have very ambitious targets now for housing in London and a huge attack now on the whole problem in the sense that the number of affordable homes delivered last year was bigger than at any time since the early 1980s.  As far as I can remember, we are building more homes now than at any time since 1981.  There are a further 260,000 homes in the planning pipeline.  That is 50% more than there were when I took over.


Darren Johnson AM:  What do you make of this quote, then?


“House prices in London have accelerated faster than wages over the last eight years, and many Londoners now cannot afford to buy a home in their own city.  Those lucky enough to own their home have to work longer hours to meet ever-rising mortgage costs, and those still searching have to take on mountains of debt in order to get on the ladder.”


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am afraid that that is absolutely true and ‑‑


Darren Johnson AM:  That was actually from your manifesto in 2008, commenting on the previous Mayor.


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I know.  That is a function of the growing popularity and success of this city.  It is the number one urban economy in Europe by miles and people want to live here.  Just since I have been Mayor, we have had growth of about 800,000 in the population of London.  Compare Berlin, which has had a fall in its population of about 186,000.  London is absolutely booming by comparison with most other European cities and that, inevitably, makes housing more expensive.  The only serious answer is not rent controls, which I know someone is going to raise later, but to build more homes.


Darren Johnson AM:  In your eight years in office, wages rose by just 4% and house prices have risen by 76%.  Is that a legacy to be proud of?


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I certainly am proud that more Londoners are now in work than even before.  We have employment at record highs.  We have unemployment at record lows.  Yes, as I said, I am perfectly willing to accept the criticism that house prices have risen.  It is an open question as to how much people would like the value of their homes to fall.  I know that owner-occupiers in this room may wonder how much they would like the value of their homes to fall.  People will have different views about that.


However, what we have done is to tackle the problem by building more homes, record numbers of homes, new affordable, new Housing Zones.  Every single bit of GLA land, all of the brownfield sites that we had when I took over, are now under construction with hundreds of thousands of new homes for Londoners.


Darren Johnson AM:  You also wrote in your 2008 manifesto that the average monthly rent had increased by over a third on the previous eight years, but in your eight years we have seen rents rise by a similar amount.  You were concerned and worried about that in 2008.  Are you still concerned and worried about this now?


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  What we have done is to introduce the London Rental Standard, which has 15,000 or so landlords accredited to it and more than 100,000 dwellings.  I cannot remember; it is 130,000 dwellings or something of that kind.


What we cannot do is try to magic rents down by imposing some sort of Government fiat because it just does not work.  Where it has been tried ‑‑


Darren Johnson AM:  You were saying that it was a problem in 2008 that rents had risen in eight years by a third.  They have now risen by another third in these eight years.  Is it still a problem?  Are you genuinely concerned about it or is it just something ‑‑


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I am.  No, of course I am.  I am just trying to give you the full picture ‑‑


Darren Johnson AM:  You have not actually been able to do anything about it, have you, because rents have risen by the same amount?


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Yes, we have because, as I say, we have tackled the problem by building more homes than the previous Labour Mayor.  In fact, there are now net far more affordable homes.  As far as I can remember, under the previous Mayor [Ken Livingstone] the net number of affordable homes actually went down.  We have increased the overall number of affordable homes and we can be very proud of that record.


Do not forget that this has been achieved in spite of the credit crunch, the absolute freezing of mortgage lending that went on in the early part of the mayoralty, and very difficult conditions for the banks and other lenders.  When I took over, construction had, basically, collapsed because of the disaster in the financial services industry and it took a real effort to keep things going.


Darren Johnson AM:  I will leave some time for my colleague Jenny Jones AM but, even by the terms you set yourself in your 2008 manifesto, you have actually failed on those terms.


Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  I must disagree with you, respectfully.  We have tackled the problem with a huge effort to build more homes.  Again, I would pay tribute to Ric Blakeway [Deputy Mayor for Housing, Land and Property], to David Lunts [Executive Director ‑ Housing and Land, GLA] and to everybody in the GLA Housing unit, who have been extremely ambitious and dynamic in their approach.


Darren Johnson AM:  Thank you.