Council House Building and Social Inequality

MQT on 2016-10-19
Session date: 
October 19, 2016
Question By: 
Tom Copley
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Would the Mayor of London agree with me that far from Gavin Barwell's assertion that building 500,000 new Council homes would entrench inequality, the opposite is true in London?


Answer for Council House Building and Social Inequality

Answer for Council House Building and Social Inequality

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chairman.  I know how important secure, decent affordable homes are to give Londoners the chance to succeed.  Living in an affordable council home gave my parents the chance to save for a deposit and meant they were able to raise me and my brothers and sister in a safe and secure environment.  Across London, there is a near-universal agreement on the importance of building more affordable housing.  We need more affordable housing to make sure our city remains a mixed and diverse place to live and to give all Londoners the chance to be part of our capital success.  Businesses agree that more affordable housing is vital to keep London’s economy growing.


My Deputy Mayor for Housing launched a report in July entitled The Business Case for Affordable Housing, commissioned by the Peabody Housing Trust and the CBI, which underscores how important this has become for the economic success of the capital.  This report sets out how one‑third of London’s shift workers live in social housing; that means carers, cleaners, those who operate our blue‑light services, all people who provide essential services in the capital.  It is clear that London’s economy would struggle without the vital role that social and council housing plays.  We need to make sure councils can make their contribution to building new homes.  There are some fantastic examples of London boroughs doing just that: Hackney, Croydon, Southwark, Wandsworth and others.  They are doing this despite the limits of what they can do and the fact they could do so much more is why I will continue to make the case for councils to be allowed greater freedom to invest more in building new homes.


The truth is we need to be building homes of all types, whether that is to buy or to rent, whether that is market rate or affordable.  We need a variety of different sorts of affordable housing to help Londoners in different situations.  That includes homes for social rent, shared‑ownership homes for first‑time buyers, homes for London Living Rent and others besides.  I want to make sure London continues to succeed as a diverse city and as an economic success.  That is why building new and affordable homes is so vital.  Council homes have to be part of that mix and they are a vital way of giving many more Londoners the chance to benefit from the sort of opportunities I had and to be part of our great city’s success.


Tom Copley AM:  Thank you for that answer, Mr Mayor.  You have already answered one of my supplementary questions about the borrowing cap for local authorities and lifting that to enable them to invest in more council housing.  I think I am right in saying housing to buy in this country was most affordable when we were building large numbers of council homes.


If we were to do the same again and build a large number of council homes, do you think over the long term the impact on that would be to make private housing to buy more affordable?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It would.  The experts say that.  One thing I would say is there is no point building affordable homes, selling them and then not replacing them, if possible, like‑for‑like in the same area, but you are absolutely right.


Tom Copley AM:  I do not suppose you are able to update us on your negotiations with the Government over what the forced sale and the replacements might look like in London?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  What I do not want to do is give a running commentary on the negotiations, but I can say this: there were some people who expressed concern when the Prime Minister appointed a Minister for London.  I think Gavin Barwell is doing a good job as Minister for London and batting for London when it comes to going to the Government.  He is also the Minister for Housing.  I am hoping Gavin’s experience as a Croydon MP, as the Minister for London and Minister for Housing means we will get a better deal than we otherwise would have done.  We are having good conversations with the DCLG and with the Treasury, and so all fingers  crossed.


Tom Copley AM:  I am pleased to hear that, although I was disappointed in Gavin Barwell’s comments that building new council housing would entrench inequality.  I am sure from your experience you would agree that council housing can be a source of social mobility in itself.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I do not want to be Gavin’s advocate but, in his defence, I am not sure if it was taken out of context or if it was scripted.  I disagree with him 100%, because for many people a home for which you can pay a social rent is your access to a decent home.  Council homes were a lifeline not just to my family but to many others.  I explained about the blue‑light services and people who are crucial to our city being sustainable, viable and doing well living in council housing.  The problem is that there is not enough.


Tom Copley AM:  Just finally, I have asked you about this before but do you think that with the creation of Homes for Londoners City Hall could enter into the business of providing a new generation of municipal housing?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am not ruling it out, but we have to be realistic about the funds coming to us from the Government, we have to be realistic about our ability to borrow to build and we have to be realistic about where we are post‑Brexit.  Homes for Londoners includes local authorities - of both main parties, by the way - and includes developers and housing associations.  We want to make sure we get the homes built that are genuinely affordable sooner rather than later, but I am not ruling that out.


Tom Copley AM:  Great, thank you very much.