In the run up to the London mayoral election, one might have been forgiven for thinking that each candidate had made strong their bid for the post by giving impressive yearly target figures for affordable housing.
After all, the London Housing Crisis was and is an issue that must be tackled in a big way to stop the problem worsening even further. And Sadiq Khan was among the frontrunners in the crisis claims by saying that he would make the subject of housing his number one priority.
However, at Mayor’s Question Time (MQT) recently, the newly appointed mayor refused to give numbers of affordable homes that could be built each year. This statement came despite the claim from the Tories’ Andrew Roff that he had pledged on his website to build a minimum of 80,000 new homes a year.
Mr Khan dismissed this allegation saying that instead of throwing figures around, he would prefer to concentrate on the type of homes that were built rather than the number.
This apparent turnaround comes at a time when the Mayor criticised investors and their ‘golden bricks’, saying that instead of building high rise super expensive apartments for wealthy foreigners, they should instead be building homes for ordinary Londoners. An appropriate comment given the fact that many Londoners are stretched to the limit paying more than half of their wages on rent, because they are unable to get on the housing ladder.
At his first MQT last week Mr Khan also said he had no plans to introduce rent controls or the powers to do so. Perhaps the reason for this apparent backtrack on his proposed pre-election policies, was the chance to go for an alternative option which was more likely to win its way through.
Recent news stories highlighted concern among Londoners about the real possibility of a solution to the housing crisis, after housing, planning and regeneration expert Neale Coleman walked out of office last month, leaving a gap in expertise in the mayoral team.
Conservative Assembly Members also felt that without a specific number to work towards when it came to affordable housing, it would mean nothing would get done. Mr Khan answered this by claiming that the previous mayor, Boris Johnson, had “left the cupboard bare” with regard to the pitiful 13% of approvals that were made for affordable housing last year and this was a problem which he was having to address first.
He said: “I’m determined to turn around this pitiful record of affordable housing delivery which falls woefully short of meeting Londoners’ needs.
“My long-term target of 50% of new homes to be genuinely affordable is crucial to ensuring this step change.
“I am confident this can be achieved without reducing housing supply. I’ll be using public land, my investments and my full suite of planning powers to ensure London builds more affordable homes.”
So, whether he went back on his word or not, there is still room for speculation as to whether the new mayor’s actions will bring a sufficient solution to the housing crisis. We will without doubt be watching this space!