First dibs for Londoners

MQT on 2019-01-17
Session date: 
January 17, 2019
Question By: 
Siân Berry
City Hall Greens
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How are you monitoring whether the number of Londoners being allocated a home ahead of overseas buyers is going up, thanks to your ‘first dibs’ approach?


Answer for First dibs for Londoners

Answer for First dibs for Londoners

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Thank you.  New homes should help Londoners rent or buy a home and City Hall’s policies to build more social-rented and other genuinely affordable homes are clearly key to this.  More widely, we want more open-market homes, particularly those that are relatively less expensive, to help Londoners too.  That is where ‘first dibs’ originated.


Our current approach to ‘first dibs’ is based on a voluntary offer made by over 40 homebuilders including the G15 housing associations and members of the Home Builders Federation in February 2018.  This offer restricts sales and marketing of new-build homes up to £350,000 to UK buyers for the first three months with a head start of up to one month during which only Londoners can buy them.  They must be advertised on my Homes for Londoners portal.  It also commits homebuilders to advertising Help to Buy homes on my portal.  Help to Buy homes must be owner-occupied and cannot be second homes, and so they can only be bought by people who are or want to become Londoners.


My team is using the portal to monitor the ‘first dibs’ offer.  It is only a snapshot in time, but right now there are three developments on the portal in Ealing, Waltham Forest and Newham that include properties for open‑market sale below £350,000 and 73 developments that include Help to Buy homes.  Developments including ‘first dibs’ homes started to go on the portal in the late summer of last year [2018].  My team’s monitoring shows that across developments advertised so far, there have been 23 homes under £350,000 and over 1,000 homes advertised for Help to Buy.  Through my team’s forward monitoring, we know of a further 184 ‘first dibs’ homes that will be on the portal soon and my team will keep a record when they do.  Further down the line, my team will also look at Land Registry and other data to monitor whether ‘first dibs’ is helping Londoners to be the ultimate buyers of more homes.


All this information will feed into a review of the voluntary ‘first dibs’ offer next year [2020].  I accepted a voluntary offer from the industry as it was able to deliver immediately for Londoners, whereas using planning measures would take years to be adopted and have an effect.  However, we need to make sure that the current approach is effective.  Using my team’s monitoring information and other data, next year’s review will assess whether the voluntary offer is going far enough.  Depending on the outcome of that review, all options are on the table, including looking again at using planning powers to achieve my goal and urging Ministers to change the law.


Sian Berry AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  It is disappointing that you do not have data on the sales so far to show us today.  As I understand it, the key difference between this and the previous Mayor’s [Boris Johnson] ineffective ‘Concordat’ policy with developers is that your agreement limits actual sales to Londoners for one month and then to UK residents for a further three months, while the previous Mayor’s Concordat was just about marketing homes.  Therefore, you should be able to monitor more or less in real time off the Land Registry what is going on and it seems to have started in February [2018].  I am very disappointed that you are not giving us any more numbers on the sales and whether the proportion is actually changing.  Do you have any idea about that?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Your assessment of the difference between this and the Concordat is not quite right.  We require as a consequence of the deal we have that all the properties go through the portal.  Previously, what had happened was that they would be marketed in London at the same time as being marketed elsewhere and also not through one system and so you would have to turn up at various places and we were not sure how they would be marketed.  This scheme means that they come to London first before being marketed, let alone sold, elsewhere but through the portal.


It is a way for you as somebody who wants to buy in London as a Londoner.  You would know where they are being marketed and where they will eventually be sold.  We know the numbers of people registered on the portal.  The number registered is, I think, 22,000.  Also, we know that more than 230,000 people have used the portal so far.  We know people are using the portal.  We know this is the way that the developers are agreeing to market.  We think two years is sufficient information to see the sales.


Sian Berry AM:  Yes, sorry to interrupt, but I am looking at the press release that was put out when you launched the agreement.  You called it ‘landmark’ and you said that this was the first time you had got promises about sales rather than just marketing, and so it is that, yes?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes.  Boris Johnson was just marketing.  This is selling.


Sian Berry AM:  Yes.  That is what I said at the beginning. 


I want to ask about the website particularly because, obviously, that was part of the policy announcement and the website is up and running now.  I have been monitoring it.  I am on it now.  The ‘first dibs’ part of your website says, “Go here and search”, but there is no choice of searching for ‘first dibs’ homes.  The adverts for private sale homes do not say, “These are for Londoners now.  Get in there before the month is up”.  There is nothing there about ‘first dibs’ and so that is quite confusing.


The numbers also do not seem very high.  You said that there were 23 homes so far since the summer [of 2018].


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The ‘first dibs’ are only available on the website in London for the first month, in the UK for ‑‑


Sian Berry AM:  It does not say that only Londoners or UK residents can buy them.  There is no restriction.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  We know who the registered users are.  They are Londoners.


Sian Berry AM:  It is only the registered user that can use it?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  For the first month, they can only be sold to Londoners.  After that month, in month two and month three, it is to Londoners plus the rest of the UK in advance of them being marketed or sold elsewhere.  What happened previously was they were being marketed only, not just for sale, in London at the same time as elsewhere around the world.  What has happened as a consequence of our policy and agreement is that Londoners have a head start on the rest of the country and the UK has a head start by three months on the rest of the world.


Sian Berry AM:  Great.  Last night I looked and there were no homes when I looked for private sale homes under £350,000.  Today there are three adverts that seem to have gone up this morning.  That does not seem very many.  Can we get a week-by-week breakdown of what has been advertised on the site so far?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No.  One of the reasons why there will be fewer below £350,000 is because there are so few within the 40 developers we have to deal with that are producing to the market properties of £350,000.  One of the reasons why we chose £350,000 is because you have to have a salary of, roughly speaking, £90,000 to be able to afford a property of £350,000.  You will be aware of the research we did in 2016 that showed that half the properties bought by overseas buyers were properties of £500,000 or less.  That is why we were concerned about this area ‑‑


Sian Berry AM:  Yes, but there are very few homes at that price.  That is the point.  That is why I am asking for the week-by-week breakdown.  I want to see what is actually going up there.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Sure, but do not forget that the developers we have to deal with - and the G15 as well - are also producing homes for rent as part of the genuinely affordable homes.  On average, 38% are going to be affordable rent and so they will not be there because they are for rent.  They are allocated by the ‑‑


Sian Berry AM:  Yes, but the thing is I am just trying to keep track of this ‘first dibs’ policy.  It was an absolute mantra of yours in the 2016 election.  Every time housing came up, you were there saying, “First dibs for Londoners, golden bricks”.  We do need to be able to get the monitoring of this as soon as possible.  Your review will be out before the next election so that we can hold you to account?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is really important that we speak about facts.


Sian Berry AM:  Yes or no, ideally, because my colleague is ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I know one of the advantages of being a politician in for Green Party is that you do not read up on the facts, but the facts are that we cannot force developers to do anything unless ‑‑


Sian Berry AM:  I just want to know if your review will be out before the next election.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  And I just want you to know the facts.  What is really important is that I use the legal ‑‑


Sian Berry AM:  You are going to have to stop.  I am sorry, Mr Mayor.  If your review does not come out before the next election, we will be having words.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I think we are seeing leaflet being produced right now as Sian Berry is speaking.


Sian Berry AM:  Stop this, please, Chairman.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Yes, none of this mayoral election stuff.