(The Pavement, 11 June 2009) This month marks the one-year anniversary of Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor of London. So what has he achieved? We look at what the Mayor has done to improve housing in London – and if he’s followed through on his key election promises.
AFFORDABLE HOMES PLEDGE:Work with the boroughs to build 50,000 more affordable homes by 2011 Action: Mr Johnson has gone back on his election pledge, changing 50,000 new homes to 50,000 more affordable homes. Empty homes that have been brought back into use, for example, could now be counted. Even the 50,000 target is looking shaky, with the Evening Standard reporting that Mr Johnson has admitted the recession could make the goal difficult to meet. Mr Johnson has also scrapped the obligation on local councils to guarantee that at least 50 per cent of their new housing will be affordable. Instead, individual targets are being decided with each borough.
RESPONSE: Adam Sampson, outgoing chief executive of Shelter, said in the Guardian (20th January 2009): “The inevitable result of this will be that boroughs will proceed to play pass the parcel with affordable housing supply, each arguing that while they support the overall target, they themselves should be exempt from it”.
SOCIAL HOUSING ACTION:Mr Johnson has shifted resources from social housing to ‘intermediate’ housing (eg, home ownership schemes). Previously the allocation was 70:30 in favour of social housing; now it is 60:40. RESPONSE: Jenny Jones, Green Party Assembly Member (20th November 2008): “By shifting the focus away from social rented housing and onto homes for middle income earners, the Mayor is cutting support for those in greatest need”.
EMPTY HOMES PLEDGE: Invest ¬£60m from the Regional Housing Pot to start renovating the capital’s 84,205 empty properties to help lowincome Londoners off waiting lists.
ACTION: The Draft Housing Strategy has allocated ¬£60m of the Targeted Funding Stream to bring empty homes back into use. It pledges that no more than one per cent of homes should stand empty and unused for over six months and there should be no financial incentives to leaving homes empty. An audit of derelict abandoned homes will also be undertaken.
GETTING ON THE PROPERTY LADDER
PLEDGE 1: Release GLA-owned land and ¬£130m from the Regional Housing Pot to launch a new ‘First Steps Housing Scheme’, which will be open to first-time buyers frozen out of Government schemes.
PLEDGE 2: Increase shared ownership schemes for low-income families by a third.
ACTION: The Draft Housing strategy outlines plans to increase opportunities for low-cost home ownership by a third. As promised, ¬£130m will be earmarked to start the First Steps housing programme. Controversially the maximum household income of those eligible for discounted and low cost homes has been raised to ¬£72,000. RESPONSE: Rob Williams in the Guardian (22nd November 2008): “Quite frankly, if housing is so expensive that an income of ¬£72,000 cannot get someone on the “property ladder” then it is clear that prices must come down to earth.”
SPACE AND OVERCROWDING
PLEDGE: Work with local councils to deliver more family-sized homes.
ACTION: The Draft Housing Strategy aims that 42 per cent of social rented and 16 per cent of intermediate homes should have three bedrooms or more. The increase in overcrowding in the social rented sector should cease by 2012, the paper adds.
SECURITY AND PROTECTION FOR PRIVATE TENANTS
PLEDGE 1: Protect private tenants from unscrupulous landlords by publishing an online ‘Fair Rents Guide’. PLEDGE 2: Explore the possibility of a tenant deposit scheme with a guaranteed arbitration period of one month. ACTION: The Draft Housing Strategy outlines plans to set up the London Rents Map, a web-based guide giving details of rent sin the capital, and to raise awareness among tenants and landlords or Tenancy Deposit Schemes. However, no new tenancy deposit schemes are mentioned other than those that have been mandatory since April 2007 for all new and renewed tenancies with rents of up to ¬£25,000 a year. We will be interviewing Boris Johnson in a forthcoming issue.