Government Ministers have used their response to Boris Johnson’s Draft London Plan to make their strongest attack yet on the Mayor’s policies for meeting the housing needs of Londoners.
The London Plan is a planning document written by the Mayor which sets out strategic planning guidance for the capital. The first London Plan was published in 2004 and replaced planning guidance previously issued by Ministers. In October 2009 Mayor Johnson published his draft replacement Plan for consultation.
In his response to the Draft Plan, Housing Minister John Healey says London needs 326,000 new homes over the next decade of which 180,000 “must be” affordable but says the capital last year “failed to spend £120m of its National Affordable Housing Programme allocation on homes for Londoners.”
Attacking the perceived timidity of the Plan, Healey expresses “serious concerns about the scale of ambition set out in the Plan” and questions City Hall’s “commitment to using the Greater London Authority’s powers to the full to ensure London has the homes that Londoners need.”
One of Johnson’s earliest decisions as Mayor was to scrap predecessor Ken Livingstone’s requirement that 50% of all new homes be affordable and replace the target with individually negotiated targets for each borough. City Hall maintains this approach, and a less “confrontational” relationship between the Mayor and boroughs, will lead to more affordable homes being built.
London Assembly Members have long expressed frustration with the Mayor for not saying what action he’ll take if boroughs fail to deliver their target of affordable homes. Picking up on this point Mr Healey criticises the plan for not setting out “what will happen if London Boroughs individually or collectively do not or are unable to meet London’s wider housing needs.”
Healey also accuses the Mayor of failing to deliver the number of homes needed by the capital. In his letter the Minister contrasts GLA data which he says suggests “London needs 18,200 affordable homes per year” with the Plan’s proposed target “of just 13,200” which “represents 40% of all new housing in London, down from 50% under the last London Plan, and your election promise to build 50,000 affordable homes over three years has now been stretched over 4 years.”
The letter goes on to state: “Your own evidence shows that there is a need for 80% of the 18,200 affordable homes London needs each year to be for social rent, yet the Plan proposes to reduce the proportion available for social rent from 70% to 60%.”
Healey also criticises the Mayor’s decision to widen the income bracket for those seeking assistance with buying a home through the government’s HomeBuy programme.
The Mayor has announced plans to make the scheme available to those earning between £60,000 and £74,000 a year. Citing Government figures showing that only one in six (16%) of London’s households have an annual income of £60,000 or more, Healey warns the Mayor’s policy will “mean that fewer on ordinary incomes will be able to gain access to homeownership.”
The Minister ends his letter by telling Johnson: “The London Plan is a long term plan. It needs to show how London’s housing need will be met over the next 20 years, beyond the immediate delivery difficulties that we face now. The scale of the ambition described in the Plan does not yet do that.”
Last week the Mayor was accused by Labour politicians of claiming credit for homes they say he played no part in delivering. The claims, denied by City Hall, came after he visited a new housing development in Charlton which local councillors say was initiated two years before Johnson came to power.