It could only have passed by the wealthiest of Londoner, but London is in the grip of a housing crisis – what the Mayor, Boris Johnson, rightly describes in his ‘2020 Vision’ as the “gravest crisis the city faces”.
One of the most abhorrent elements of this housing crisis is that at a time when families on low and middle-incomes are genuinely struggling to put a roof over their heads, over 72,000 homes are lying empty in London; 24,000 of which are long-term empty.
Yet, given the strength of Boris’s rhetoric, it is astounding that the Mayor recorded a 99% underspend on his empty homes programme during the last financial year.
The government handed the Mayor £15.7 million to spend on bringing empty homes back into use between 2012 and 2015, £3.6 million of which Boris allocated for spending in 2012/13.
In the end, Boris has spent only £39,000 – a little over a quarter of his own mayoral salary – on bringing a paltry eight homes back into use. This at a time when over 360,000 households are on London’s housing waiting lists.
Londoners will no doubt think something is going badly wrong and rightly recognise that on this issue the buck stops with the Mayor. It’s his responsibility and he needs to get a grip on this.
The Mayor’s Housing Adviser, Richard Blakeway, sounded less than confident when interviewed by BBC London, claiming simply that “my officers have told me that they will deliver this programme”.
Rhetoric is one thing, but the Mayor needs to start acting like we are in a housing crisis. Instead, what we have seen is an increasing pattern of failure.
In 2008 he pledged to end rough sleeping by 2012. Instead, the number of people sleeping rough in London has increased every single year and figures published this week showed that the number has doubled since he became Mayor.
On affordable housing, the number of homes being delivered has also dropped dramatically since Boris assumed responsibility, while he has also enthusiastically insists on pushing through the government’s Orwellian ‘Affordable Rent’ programme (affordable housing charged at up to 80% of market rent), which in parts of London such as Camden could result in ‘affordable’ – family-sized – homes that require a household income of £100,000. It’s as if the Mayor takes the view that all housing is affordable to someone!
The Mayor needs to get a grip on London’s housing crisis. If he genuinely believes it is the ‘gravest crisis the city faces’ then its time his actions began to reflect the rhetoric.
Tom Copley AM is a Londonwide member of the London Assembly and City Hall Labour’s Housing Spokesperson.