London: Heated debate over social housing shortfall

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A heated debate took place during the Mayors Question time at City Hall over the number of affordable homes being built across London.

Responding to a question asked by London Assembly Member Tom Copley, Mayor of London Boris Johnson claimed that he was doing more than previous governments to tackle the shortfall in affordable homes.

He said: “We are finally showing the guts and determination to get homes built across London in huge numbers.”

Boris claimed that during his first term the number of affordable homes has increased by 11,000 on average, compared to a 15,000 decrease under previous Labour Mayor Ken Livingston.

He also outlined plans to increase spending on social housing by £1.25 billion, promising to deliver over 100,000 homes in the next eight years.

However, Tom criticised the mayor’s statistics, citing GLA’s monitoring figures which show Labour councils have built twice as many affordable homes than the average Tory council since the last set of local elections in 2010.

“I sometimes think you hallucinate the figures” he said.

“Why are Tory boroughs performing so badly?”

In total, there were less than 50 affordable homes built in Tory controlled Kensington & Chelsea over the past four years, nearly twenty times less than the amount built in Labour controlled Southwark.

“In the league table of social houses delivered over the last four years, 9 out of the top 10 boroughs are Labour,” he added.

Conservative Assembly Member Richard Stacey, representing Wandsworth, was quick to point out his boroughs plan to build 1000 new affordable homes.

However, according to figures from the GLA, there have been less than 500 affordable homes built by the borough during the past three years.

In comparison, Labour run boroughs in Hackney have built more than three times as many affordable homes over the same time period.

Boris said: “The figures I’ve seen show huge numbers of affordable homes being built across London by all boroughs.

“Some people need to do more and we’re on their case.”

Conservative London Assembly Member Andrew Boff was concerned with the effect of a proposed cap on the sale of council houses by Labour.

Currently, the money raised in the sale of a council home is used to invest in new housing developments.

But critics argue that the Right-to-buy leads to privatisation of homes built especially for those on the lowest incomes, which are then put on the market to rent at full price.

This can lead to the gentrification of traditionally working class areas.

Writing for The Guardian, social affairs journalist Hannah Fearn said we must recognise “the need to retain homes as a local asset rather than letting them slip from grasp.

“Right-to-buy was designed for the 1980s, for the boom years; in bust we need something new, something flexible and something designed locally.”

The next Mayor’s Question Time is set to take place on Wednesday 11 June, and is open to the public.

Questions are published a week before the meeting on the GLA’s website.

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