Construction of over 12,500 new affordable homes was started in London during the 2017/18 financial year, surpassing the yearly target Sadiq Khan has set for himself, according to government figures just published by City Hall.
Work got underway on a total of 12,526 dwellings across the capital during the twelve months in question, comprising 2,826 for letting at “social rent level”, 2,973 at other “affordable rent” levels, and 6,688 low cost home ownership properties, a mixture of shared ownership homes and Khan’s signature London Living Rent tenure, which enables middle income households to buy a percentage of their home in the longer term. A further 39 of the affordable “starts” are described as “other intermediate” market types.
The figures will fortify Khan against opposition criticism that he hasn’t made enough progress with his affordable homes programme, having secured £3.15bn from the government in November 2016 to allocate to London’s affordable housing providers. In February, housing minister Dominic Raab echoed London Conservatives in claiming that the Mayor was “badly failing to keep his promises” on affordable homes.
At that time, the figures for April-December 2017 showed that 2,221 starts on homes receiving funding from the Mayor had taken place. However, by the end of January the number had risen sharply, and Khan’s deputy mayor for housing James Murray said at the time that “it tends to be that more more starts are registered towards the end of the year”.
The new figures are being hailed by the London Labour Party as a vindication of their party’s approach to tackling affordable housing shortages in the capital as it seeks to make significant gains in the borough council elections on 3 May.
There is particular satisfaction with the social rent level starts, which form a relatively small part of Khan’s affordable starts total but still outnumber what was achieved each year throughout Boris Johnson’s second mayoral term, with the figure falling to nil in his final year. Labour say that Khan has “ditched Boris Johnson’s dodgy definition of ‘affordable'” and that “these new homes are truly affordable to Londoners”.
The 2017/18 overall affordable starts total is also higher than that for any year since 2012/13, which was also the most productive of Johnson’s second mayoralty, when work on 10,128 new affordable homes was begun.
The number of affordable starts is influenced by factors that were already in play, including the availability of land and the planning permission “pipeline” previously established, as well as the amount of funding support from City Hall. Progress will have been helped by the good relationship Khan’s housing team is reported to have formed with the capital’s larger housing associations, which will deliver the majority of the 90,000 “genuinely affordable” homes the £3.15bn is intended to help finance over a five-year period.
Khan said that today’s figures “show that at City Hall we have begun to lay the groundwork for turning around London’s housing crisis” and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that “these figures show what can be achieved when Labour is in power”.
Richard Brown, research director at think tank Centre for London, said the new figures “show an impressive achievement considering that the first major allocations of the homes for Londoners programme were made less than a year ago”.
Khan’s progress in 2017/18 has been helped not only by the larger sums made available to him by the government but also by the terms on which it has been dispensed, which housing associations have found more agreeable than was the case with his predecessor. Under Johnson, some declined to bid for mayoral cash because they would have been required to build some homes they did not consider sufficiently “affordable” for those in need of them.
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