Independent London Mayor contender Rory Stewart has followed up his “selling the family silver” attack on incumbent Sadiq Khan’s housing record with his own policy – for the “largest public house-building drive in London for more than a generation”.
The former Tory leadership hopeful today pledged to “halt the sell-off” of City Hall-controlled land on day one of his mayoralty and sidestep private developers to deliver 250,000 affordable homes within five years through his own “Mayor’s Building Company.”
Current City Hall strategies set out a need for 65,000 new homes a year, of all types, with Khan’s draft London Plan setting a target of 52,000 a year, half of which should be affordable. Some 40,00 new homes were completed overall in London in 2019, and 14,500 affordable homes were started in 2018/19 with City Hall support, a record total since housing funding was devolved to the Mayor, according to Khan.
But in a hard-hitting statement Stewart accused Khan and previous Mayors of missing their targets, and singled Khan out for “robbing Londoners” through “unsustainable asset-stripping” – selling off “huge swathes” of Transport for London as well as other public land to plug transport and policing budget gaps.
“I would use public land for public benefit – building affordable homes, and creating a permanent investment for the benefit of all Londoners,” he said. “As Mayor, I won’t sit around waiting for private developers – I’ll set up a Mayor’s Building Company and build the homes London needs myself, gripping the problem in a way Sadiq Khan has not.”
A map published alongside the policy announcement detailed publicly-owned sites identified by Stewart’s campaign, including land held by the NHS and Network Rail as well as London boroughs – “space for some 250,000 affordable units, which the Mayor’s Building Company will develop and own on behalf of the city”, the announcement says.
The “vast majority” of his Building Company homes would be “genuinely affordable”, he said, with rents linked to incomes not average wages and a proportion of homes earmarked for teachers, nurses and other “key workers” as well as homes allocated via council waiting lists.
While the proposals do envisage developer involvement, alongside housing associations, councils and smaller housebuilders commissioned for smaller sites, they would run alongside a “use it or lose it” pledge giving builders a limited time to implement planning permission.
Stewart would also launch a review of all “stalled” sites across the capital, claiming planning permission was currently in place for 200,000 homes where construction has not started – a figure recently analysed by business lobby group London First in a report challenging accusations of land banking.
Funding for the plans would come from central government grants plus pension fund investment such as that negotiated recently in Croydon, and loan guarantee schemes similar to the government’s Affordable Homes Guarantee scheme, Stewart said, anticipating raising up to £40 billion in addition to government funding over 10 years.
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