First dibs for Londoners

MQT on 2016-06-22
Session date: 
June 22, 2016
Question By: 
Siân Berry
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Will you outline how you will meet your manifesto pledge "to give 'first dibs' to first-time buyers and local tenants" in new developments


Answer for First dibs for Londoners

Answer for First dibs for Londoners

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chairman.  I want to make sure that Londoners get the benefit of as many of the new homes we build as possible.  The problem now is that too many Londoners feel they are not benefiting from new homes built in the capital, particularly where new homes are bought as gold‑brick investments and left empty.  It is clear that these homes are not helping any Londoners’ housing situations.  The example of the tower at St George Wharf hit the headlines recently.  This tower contains 240 apartments, of which 184 have no one registered to vote, of which over 130 are foreign‑owned and of which none are affordable.  This is clearly at the extreme, but it is clear we need to make sure Londoners benefit from more of the new homes we build.


The previous Mayor appeared to recognise that Londoners have been missing out on the opportunity to buy new homes when they are sold off‑plan overseas.  He set up a Concordat to try to tackle this problem.  As I have said earlier, it has not been robust or effective in dealing with this problem.  The GLA has not been able to actively monitor or enforce the marketing activities of the signatories, and if the Concordat is broken there is no effective sanction available anyway.  I want to take a better approach and it is clear we need further research and data to understand the problem in fine detail and to develop potential solutions.  Any options we develop will be mindful of the needs of home builders to raise project finance and make sure our approach supports new development forward.


When we are discussing first dibs for Londoners, it is of course essential that we build more affordable homes that Londoners can benefit from, like genuinely affordable homes to buy for Londoners who have been stuck renting privately for years.  My officers are working on a range of options about how to offer Londoners first dibs on more new and affordable housing and I will announce details in due course.


Sian Berry AM:  OK.  Thank you very much for that.  The Green Assembly Members who came before me spent a lot of time highlighting the failures of the previous Mayor’s Concordat and so I do welcome that.  I also welcome the idea of getting more research and data done on this because it is very hard to work out what is going on.


I want to ask, a new replacement for the Concordat would mainly cover the marketing of new private homes, but I believe your policy was intended also to cover the homes that Homes for Londoners builds, things that are built on TFL and other GLA land.  Can you outline how your range of options might look at applying for your “first dibs for Londoners” policy there?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  That is one of the things that - to paraphrase the Assembly Member sitting not far from your left - the excellent Deputy Mayor Murray is looking into.  If you have ideas, please feel free to pass them on to Deputy Mayor Murray.


The idea is to make sure that the new homes we build in London on public land are available to Londoners.  There are a number of ways of doing so and residency is one way.  What we are going to do in relation to the shared‑ownership homes is that if you have been renting for a long period of time with a private landlord, you can jump the queue in relation to getting one of those shared‑ownership homes.  There are other ideas we have, but I would strongly advise that if you have ideas feel free to please speak to Deputy Mayor Murray because what is important is that we have a solution that addresses the grievance Londoners have that new homes that are built are not for them.


Sian Berry AM:  Going on that definition of “Londoners” that you use, what I worry is that you mean to focus priority on how long people have lived here already and discriminate against recent arrivals.  We both agree that the problem is not people coming to live in London; the problem is people treating homes as investments that they do not live in, ie your famous gold bricks.  Do you agree it is better that any kind of “first dibs” policy should be welcoming to people who want to live in London and should focus on requirements for future occupancy rather than past residency?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am a very welcoming Mayor.  The point is that, look, we know local authorities around London have different policies in relation to allocation of council homes and the residence requirement.  Some local authorities have fewer years than others and so we already have a system in place where length of time in an area or length of time in London can determine your place on a waiting list for allocation of homes.  My point is this: in the absence of a change in legislation from Parliament there is only so much I can do.  I will use all the tools at my disposal to ensure the homes we build in London are affordable and built for Londoners.


Sian Berry AM:  OK.  That does not quite fit in what your Deputy Mayor for Housing told us earlier this month.  He said that “first dibs” was a principle that would apply to people who had lived here for a number of years and people who move here to work.  I wondered if you could maybe clarify whether that is also what you are thinking about.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There will be lots of different developments across London.  The same rule will apply to all developments and what is important is we have a system that means that homes that are built are built for Londoners rather than investors overseas.


Sian Berry AM:  It seems that what you are saying is that your affordable homes you are building on TfL land would have a residency requirement?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There are different plans that we have.  For example, when it comes to giving permission for homes on private land, we want local authorities to be saying to the developer, “One of the conditions of you getting permission to build these homes” - and they could be market value homes, they could be all sorts of homes - “is that the homes that you sell you market here for a period of time before you market them overseas”.  Six months is the ‑‑


Sian Berry AM:  No, I was just asking specifically about the homes that you build and whether you would have a residency requirement.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Sure.  No, you are asking for a one-size-fits-all definition of a “Londoner” and the point I am making to you is there are different provisions for different developments. What we want to do in the London Plan going forward is to understand the different needs in different parts of London.  For example, a development in Southwark may be different, for obvious reasons, to one in Croydon and we need to understand that.


Sian Berry AM:  OK.  That is something we will have to keep talking about.  One thing Camden Council is trying to do is introduce in its new plan a requirement or an expectation that the homes will be lived in, whether it is market developments or ones that they do.  I hope you would be looking at doing that within the London Plan provisions as well.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes, and Camden is a very good council.  One of the reasons why Camden is trying to do this is because it is using all the tools it has to stop properties being left empty and it is something that I find quite attractive.


Sian Berry AM:  I may be out of time now, but thank you.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  My pleasure.