Khan hails affordable homes success but questions raised over lack of family-size housing

City Hall hits target set by government to start work on 116,000 affordable homes across London, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan speaks to reporters at a construction site (credit LDRS)
Sadiq Khan speaks to reporters at a construction site (credit LDRS)

London mayor Sadiq Khan has hit back at claims he is building “tower blocks people do not want” in a “desperate” bid to reach his housing targets.

City Hall revealed yesterday (Monday 15th) that it had hit the government’s target of starting work on 116,000 new affordable homes by April 2023. The milestone was achieved after work was started on a record 25,658 affordable properties in the last year.

The government had given City Hall some £4.82billion since 2016 to help it meet the 116,000-home target.

But Shaun Bailey – the Conservative’s City Hall housing spokesperson – said Khan had “failed to deliver the affordable, family homes that Londoners need”. He added: “Despite having billions in government funding, the mayor has resorted to building tower blocks people do not want in a desperate struggle to meet this target.”

Responding, Khan said: “I accept my political opponents are shedding a tear today, because we’ve smashed the targets set by their government.

“The reality is this – the government set the target in 2016, before Brexit, before the labour shortages, before the material shortages, before the pandemic, before interest rates went up because of government mismanagement, before construction inflation. We’ve not just met the target, we’ve smashed it.”

The government recognised the pandemic’s impact by extending the programme’s deadline from 2022 to 2023.

The mayor pointed out that he had already made meeting the target “harder for himself” by changing the definition of ‘affordable housing’ in London used by the previous mayor, Boris Johnson. Under the previous definition, ‘affordable’ meant rents of up to 80% of market levels. But Khan’s City Hall now defines ‘genuinely affordable’ homes as those set at a traditional social rent level, at the ‘London Living Rent’ level benchmarked at a third of average local earnings, or those capped at the ‘London Affordable Rent’ standard, as well as shared ownership properties.

Khan also defended the mix of property types currently being built in London, pointing to a new set of terraced council houses he visited in Stonebridge earlier this month as one example. He urged his Conservative opponents to lobby their colleagues in government to provide more funding for more homes in the capital.

Shaun Bailey, who unsuccessfully stood against Khan as the Conservative candidate in the mayoral election two years ago, said no progress had yet been made on the next round of the affordable homes programme, which began in 2021 and ends in 2026. City Hall has been given some £4billion by the government to start work on it, with a target of 35,000 homes started by 2026 – but two years since the scheme’s launch, no properties have yet been started as part of it.

Asked about progress on the 2026 deadline, the mayor said: “Watch this space. Let’s celebrate the great news today from the 2016-23 [programme].

“Judge me by my record – every target met I’ve smashed, and I’m sure the target set by the government up to 2026 we’ll smash as well.”

In his speech announcing his latest housebuilding targets, Khan warned that the housing crisis remained a major threat to the city’s “soul”. He said: “Even if young Londoners were to live Spartan-like lives, huge numbers would still struggle to eke out enough spaces for a solicitor and surveyor, never mind a serious deposit – not when the average deposit for a first-time buyer in London has recently been as high as £150,000.

“You could cut back on your standard Netflix subscription every month for the next thousand years, and it still wouldn’t be enough to raise that frankly absurd sum.

“So for those peddling the ridiculous notion that young people just need to stop complaining and start saving, my message is this: get real.

“As mayor, I don’t want to see London become a playground for the rich. I’m determined to create a London for everybody.”

City Hall highlighted in its announcement that the 116,000 homes delivered over the last seven years is the equivalent number of homes as a city the size of Plymouth. However, they added the caveat that this number includes 2015/16 affordable housing starts as well (the previous mayor’s final year in office) as the funding settlement confirmed by Khan in November 2016 included funding for legacy programmes categorised in the 2015/16 financial year.  

Of the 116,000 affordable housing starts across London during this period, 4,974 were in Barnet borough, representing 4.3% of the total.

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