The battle over London’s housing crisis has intensified with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, coming under scrutiny in the Mayoral question time.
The question time comes as GLA Conservative member Gareth Bacon has called for the £4.2 billion stamp duty to be devolved to double house building in the capital.
He said that the funds raised could be used to build 42,614 homes every year.
“We have a shortage of housing in the capital and we can use the cash we raise ourselves to fix the problem. I welcome the chancellor’s decision to devolve business rates to local councils, now stamp duty should be next on the list.
“My sums show that if the capital uses its stamp duty on constructing new homes, it can more than double house building from 20,520 to 42,614 every year. It’s time for London to finance its way out of its housing shortage through common sense reforms.”
In response to this, Boris Johnson said: “These calculations show just why stamp duty should be devolved to London government, as the independent London Finance Commission has also recommended, and I welcome this support for further devolution.”
Boris Johnson came under attack during the question time from Labour’s London Assembly housing spokesperson, Tom Copley AM, who called on the Mayor to oppose the Housing Bill saying it will “come at a severe cost to Londoners.”
Provisions set out in the Housing and Planning Bill, include plans to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants. The scheme would be funded by forcing councils to sell ‘higher value’ housing, with evidence from the Greater London Authority (GLA) suggesting that as many as 10,500 affordable homes could be sold each year as a result.
Boris Johnson has previously set out four conditions which needed to be met if the policy was to work in the capital including the policy must deliver more housing overall, more ‘affordable’ housing is needed overall, it must preserve London’s mixed communities and the money raised from council housing sales in London must be spent in the capital.
Mr Johnson said: “I support the Right to Buy. It is always the people that own their own that tell others they can’t.
"It is crazy to be using cash generated from the sale of homes in London to be used outside of London. They do not have a shortage like we do.
“I want to see cash generated from London to build houses in London.”
However, Tom Copley has argued that the government’s decision not to include measures which would ensure sums raised in London are retained in the capital meant the bill falls well short of the Mayor’s ‘red lines’.
No provision is included in the bill to guarantee the delivery of more housing and additional ‘affordable’ housing, whilst concerns abound that the failure to replace social housing in equal numbers will erode London’s traditional mixed communities.
Mr Copley pushed for the Mayor to answer on whether we would stand against the bill if there were no amendments to which the reply was: “We will see how we go.”
The Mayor of London opened the question time by saying: “There has been a record number of houses built.”
He was asked by Steve O’Connell: “How will you be taking forward the government's recent announcement to enable the delivery of Starter Homes in London?”
To which he replied: “The starter homes initiative is potentially very exciting but there are loads of details to be worked out.
“We want to increase the part buy part rent, we want to see how it works for London.
“I think the key thing is the difficulty of getting a mortgage or a deposit in London. That is why I stressed the part buy part rent. That is the moral we need to be expanding.
“The prices of some of the starter homes, if they are capped at 450,000 are too
expensive for the city. It is very high.”
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