Gareth Bacon is Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly.
For a Mayor who called his election last year a ‘referendum on housing’, it is perhaps surprising that Sadiq Khan has so far failed to live up to his housing promises.
As set out in our new report, The Cost of Khan, the Mayor has already reneged on his two flagship housing policies. His manifesto pledged to set “a target of half of all the new homes that are built across London being genuinely affordable to rent or buy”. However, within a few months this was watered down to 35 per cent. By way of comparison, his predecessor, Mayor Boris Johnson, achieved an average of 36 per cent affordable homes, and managed to build over 100,000 affordable homes in his eight years as Mayor.
Similarly, Khan’s election website included a promise to build 80,000 new homes a year. This was certainly a bold pledge, as for many years delivery has been around a quarter of this. Yet once elected, Khan was quick to distance himself from this pledge and denied even making it, despite (at the time of writing) it still being clearly visible on his website.
Indeed, over a year after his election, the Mayor has so far failed to set any new target for the number of homes to be built in London. We may even have to wait another two years, until the new London Plan is published in 2019, before any new housing target is set. This potentially means a three-year limbo for London’s developers, boroughs and housing associations. Those who will actually need to build London’s much-needed new homes are left without any certainty from the Mayor as to how many homes they will need to build. So far all we know is that the government will be funding 90,000 new affordable homes in the next four years, yet still nothing from Khan as to how he will make up the difference.
Khan also promised to crack down on tall buildings, with a pledge to ‘ensure tall buildings respect the character of existing neighbourhoods’. Yet his first two planning approvals as Mayor were for developments of 17 storeys in Harrow and 21 storeys in Haringey – both of which were against the wishes of the local councils. Yet when challenged about these towers, in the wake of the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster, he refused to review these decisions and arrogantly dismissed any safety concerns.
What we are learning about Sadiq Khan – on housing, as on so many other issues – is that he talks a good game, but is unable to deliver anything of substance for Londoners.