Housing needs

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 6th November 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

Are you meeting London’s housing needs?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Chair. London’s housing crisis has been decades in the making, with far too few genuinely affordable homes having been built for many years. In London, 56,000 households are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, 370,000 children are living in overcrowding, and rents have risen almost twice as fast as earnings since 2005.

We will never be able to fully meet London’s housing needs without a step in the level of investment and powers from national Government. Since taking office, I have used all the resources available, and we have begun building record numbers of genuinely affordable homes. We know the overwhelming need is for social rented housing. Under my predecessor, the number being built fell to almost zero, but we have begun to turn that around. Last year we began building more genuinely affordable homes than in any year since powers were devolved to London, including record numbers of Social Rent, through my new Building Council Homes for Londoners Programme. We also had councils start the most new council homes since 1984.

Alongside my Affordable Housing Programme, we have overhauled the planning system to make sure more new homes meet Londoners’ needs. Under my predecessor, affordable housing and planning permission fell to just 13%, and even that was using his dodgy definition of affordable. As part of our new approach, an independent evaluation by Grant Thornton published in May this year reported that genuinely affordable housing has risen to 36% in 2018.

I also set up the new London Land Fund to buy land for developments with higher proportions of affordable housing. Through this fund we have secured 50% affordable housing at North Middlesex University Hospital, a minimum of 50% affordable at the former St Ann’s Hospital site, and over 1,000 homes with at least 60% affordable on the former Holloway Prison site. We are severely limited by the lack of public funding from Government, and that is why I am working with G15 and others. We have estimated London needs £4.9 billion per year of Government grant funding to build all the homes Londoners need. That is seven times what we currently receive.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

Mr Mayor, you said that you are building more new homes to meet Londoners’ needs. Last year, according to your own figures, the number of Greater London Authority (GLA) funded affordable family-sized homes that were started went down by over 30% from 2,892 to 2,005. Do you think this will improve London’s overcrowding problem or make it worse?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

One of the reasons why there are more intermediate houses is that is the way the funding from the Government is skewed. Because the Government skews the funding towards intermediate housing, which tends to be two-bedroom, you are seeing fewer social rented family homes that we need.

One of the things we have done in the draft London Plan which was not in the previous London Plan was require boroughs to set size mix requirements for social housing, and this means local councils can set targets for family-sized housing that will meet the needs of people in the local area. Clearly, with more funding for social housing, we could have more social housing that families would want to live in.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

If this is a problem with regard to intermediate homes, had the rules changed in the past year?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

No. The Government’s funding since we negotiated with it has been weighted towards intermediate housing. That is more so in 2015, as Assembly Member [Sian] Berry alluded to previously. Funding was for starter homes.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

Why have they declined under the same rules, the number of family homes that are being built? Why have they declined under the same rules?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

There are two types of family homes we are talking about. One is market value family homes, which are not affordable to Londoners, and another is social rented family homes, which are affordable to Londoners. Our focus is getting more of the latter because that is what Londoners need. Market-value family houses are not affordable to Londoners, so that is why you are seeing more and more people who are living in these family-sized homes having their grown children living with them, but what the grown children need are one-bedroom and two-bedroom properties that are affordable to move out of Mum’s and Dad’s home.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

Are you saying there is not a requirement for larger family homes?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Market value, there has never been a requirement for family homes under the previous Mayor’s Housing Strategy or ours. What we have done in our Strategy differently from the previous Mayor’s is require councils to work out what they need for Social Rent family homes in the area.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

Can you explain why, according to your own figures, the amount of overcrowding in London in 2017/18 is at its highest level for nine years? That is 8.7% of all London homes. All London homes, not just affordable.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The answer is easy. It is a consequence of your Government’s welfare benefit policies because of the cap you introduced in relation to housing benefit, not linking housing benefits to the local housing allowance. What that has led to is families not being able to live in homes sized commensurate with their families because of the welfare benefit changes made by your Government. If you feel strongly about this, work with me to lobby your Government to reverse welfare benefit changes it has made.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

Mr Mayor, you have removed all targets from your Housing Strategy and indeed the London Plan for family-sized housing.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

You can explain how that is not true. How is that going to affect overcrowding in London?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Let me read, Chair, if it helps the Assembly Member, what the draft London Plan in 2019 says. Draft policy H12 states, and I quote, “Schemes should generally consist of a range of unit sizes”, and it goes on and refers to, and I quote, “A strategic and local requirement for affordable family accommodation”. Draft policy H12 states, and I quote,

“For low-cost rent, boroughs should provide guidance on the size of units required by number of bedrooms to ensure affordable housing meets identified needs.”

As I said, we are requiring councils now to set out the targets for family-sized social housing that meets their specific needs, and our draft London Plan, when it is fully made into a London Plan, will assist councils to do just that.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

You have left that responsibility to the boroughs and then abnegated responsibility for the numbers. What percentage of family homes do you expect to be built over the next year?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

There has never been a percentage requirement on boroughs. We are criticised for doing that ‑‑

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

You decided not to do that.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

What it means is that councils will work out what the needs are for the boroughs, and different boroughs will have different requirements. Borough A may have, when it has done its assessment, fewer families who need family-sized Social Rent homes. Borough B may, when it carries out its assessment, need more family-sized homes than ‑‑

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

Do you think the 350,000 young people being brought up in overcrowded conditions will welcome your abnegation of responsibility on this matter?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

What they will welcome is us working together to lobby the Government to reverse the welfare benefit policies that have led to this sort of overcrowding. What they will welcome is the Government giving me seven times more funding to build more social rented homes and council homes, rather than what we have at the moment, which is us receiving one-seventh of what we need. What they will welcome is the Government, rather than wasting £4 billion dealing with the consequences of no-deal Brexit, using that £4 billion to help build the homes that Londoners desperately need.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

Mr Mayor, do you think that after Brexit you might actually pick up your proper responsibilities and look to the interests of London’s young people?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, I am astonished. I am really astonished that the Assembly Member does not see the position of Brexit and young Londoners.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

You are terribly distracted by one subject. You are not interested in public order. You are not interested in housing. You are not interested in the knife crime on our streets. You are only obsessed with Brexit. This is from a Mayor whom we have elected to deliver on all those subjects, not Brexit. I am finished. Thank you.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, I am astonished that the Assembly Member does not realise the link that Brexit has to housing and to young people. Had he read, for example, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) report? It talks about the impacts of Brexit on housebuilding. Had the Assembly Member read the Bank of England’s report, it talks about the impact of Brexit on housebuilding. It is really important for us to realise the consequences of Brexit on a whole host of issues. It is the proceeds of taxes raised by people working, by the growth created, that leads to us being able to fund these public services. I am really surprised that the Assembly Member does not understand the basic economy and the way it works.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

I understand all too well, Mr Mayor. I just wish you would give that speech from the top of a train in Canning Town.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Sorry, Chair. I did not hear the question.

Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

I did not hear it either.

Photo of Andrew Boff Andrew Boff Conservative

I said I would like to you to give that speech from the top of a train in Canning Town.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Was that a question, Chair? I should respond. I should respond, surely.

Photo of Jennette Arnold Jennette Arnold Labour

No, he did not put it in a question form, and I am not going to have a bat and ball between the both of you.