Mayor accused of “accepting defeat” in battle against housing crisis

London Assembly Member John Biggs AM has accused Mayor Boris Johnson of “accepting defeat in the battle to tackle London’s housing crisis” after setting a target to build just 42,000 new homes a year. Boris Johnson has set the target despite his own evidence showing that 62,000 must be built to clear the backlog on housing waiting lists in Tower Hamlets and across London within ten years.

The house building targets were included in alterations to the Mayor’s controversial London Plan which were pushed through last week despite the majority of London Assembly Members, including John Biggs AM, voting against the proposals. Mr Biggs said the Mayor’s “unambitious” target would leave the capital stuck with an ever-deepening housing crisis. Particular concerns were raised that the affordable housing targets within the plan, for only 17,000 new affordable homes a year, would come nowhere near to meeting the needs of Londoners.

Despite setting a target for 42,000 new homes each year, the Mayor recognised that tens of thousands more were necessary to meet London’s growing housing need. Instead of including these in his target, the Mayor has said he expects Local Authorities to make up the difference but failed to give any strategic direction as to how councils could achieve the 20,000 extra homes that are needed to bridge the gap.

The vote came in the same week that the capital’s population hit record limits, reaching 8.6m for the first time. It also came a week after a new report from the Chartered Institute of Housing found that 76% Londoners now believe there is a housing crisis in their area.

London Assembly Member John Biggs AM said:

“By setting a house building target well below what his own evidence shows we need, the Mayor is accepting defeat in the battle to tackle London’s housing crisis. Boris Johnson’s complete absence of ambition could lock us into this worsening housing crisis for years.

“We need creative and ambitious solutions if we are to successfully tackle the capital’s housing crisis. In the case of Tower Hamlets there is certainly a lot of housing being built – indeed many people think the borough is more than playing its part - but too little is affordable. And one of the reasons for this is the failure to build elsewhere. In Tower Hamlets and across London, we need to see genuinely affordable housing being prioritised and hard targets being driven by the Mayor. The main reason homes are so expensive is that there aren’t enough in London as a whole.

“Boris Johnson has had seven years now to come up with a plan to tackle London’s housing need, instead we’ve seen rocketing house prices and rental charges, and not enough homes to meet demand. This was the Mayor’s final opportunity to put in place a legacy which would leave London able to build its way out of this housing crisis. He has failed to do so and sadly it is people in Tower Hamlets and Londoners in general who will suffer as a result, and in many cases are being priced out of our city.”

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