Victoria Borwick is MP for Kensington and Chelsea.
Having served as Boris’s Deputy Mayor from 2012, I know that the most important topic occupying his second term was housing. And yet in hustings for the mayoralty ahead of his first term in 2008 the subject was barely mentioned.
Demand, exacerbated by the historic failure of successive governments to prioritise house building, was driven in part over those eight years by the phenomenal growth of London under Boris.
The facts show nearly a quarter of a million new homes were built in that time, and Boris helped deliver 100,000 affordable homes over his two terms, honouring his manifesto commitment and ensuring that more affordable homes were built under him than under Ken Livingstone. Boris delivered in a downturn what Ken couldn’t even when the sun shone brightly.
In one year alone, 2014/15, across London over 18,000 affordable homes were completed, more than in any year since 1981, an achievement driven by City Hall in collaboration with Housing Associations, developers and the boroughs.
Furthermore, the Mayor was determined that these should not be “hobbit homes” and new homes had to meet new design and increased space standards – the toughest design standards since the 1960s – ensuring that quality was not sacrificed for quantity.
Not only were these affordable homes built and available to live in, but a large number of new schemes are now in place – ensuring Boris’ successor has inherited a head start on his future housebuilding programme.
Boris acknowledged that success drove rapid population growth and that in turn brought significant pressure for new housing.
That’s why in 2013 the London Plan revised earlier estimates and rightly set the highest housing target in City Hall’s history – 49,000 homes a year – whilst seeking to maximise
These plans are unlocking development from Old Oak Common in the West to Barking Riverside in the East. That delivery in years to come will define Boris’ housing legacy.
He also recognised that for many the first step on the housing ladder appeared a distant dream – they simply couldn’t afford to buy their own home. The solution? The Mayor’s First Steps programme for shared ownership, or buy and part rent.
Under Boris it helped 52,000 Londoners on average household incomes to buy their first home, with deposits sometimes as low as £5,000.
Boris also launched the London Rental Standard to address the capital’s expanding rental market, which aims to ensure that landlords treat their tenants fairly and properly maintain their properties. This scheme is now accrediting 14,961 landlords and 139,000 properties
Another issue of significant concern, particularity in Central London, is rough sleepers, and there was massive investment in hostel accommodation and services. These schemes, including those for ex-veterans, often include access to assistance with employment and longer term housing.
City Hall has launched a suite of schemes, including “No Second Night Out”, which has helped over 90 per cent of those accessing GLA-commissioned rough sleeping services get off the streets and into proper accommodation and employment.
Over his time in office, Boris created 31 new “Housing Zones” which accelerate housing development in areas across London which have a high potential for growth and link in with transport improvements.
It is vital to link housing, transport and employment to enable more people to benefit from living in the Capital. That’s why Boris was so keen to drive infrastructure investment across the city.
Since 2012 – when the Mayor was granted new powers – every single tract of GLA-owned surplus public land (the equivalent of over 300 football pitches) has been released for development to create 50,000 new homes – an unprecedented release of public land across the capital which will see regeneration from Catford to Stratford.
In 2015 the London Land Commission was established, chaired by the Mayor, in order to identify all the publicly owned land across London, from TfL, to the NHS, to Government surplus land.
The idea was simple – create a new “Domesday Book” to unlock land for development across 40,000 sites, with potential to create more than 130,000 homes. This has enabled the GLA to build up a clearer picture across London – tying demand to availability, showing all current building, and listing all land where planning has been applied for.
The result: an unprecedented strategic overview of both housing, construction demand and the need for transport and infrastructure.
For decades there was a failure to build enough homes to meet London’s growing population. Boris recognised this, stepped up to the challenge and delivered. There’s no overnight solution to solving demand for housing in London, but in Boris London had a Mayor who recognised the importance of planning now, in order to build for the future.