Government ministers have been urged to lift the cap on council borrowing to allow London councils to build new affordable housing for low-income families.
A new report from the London Assembly’s Housing Committee also calls for surplus public land to be sold to councils at a price which makes building such homes viable, and for the Decent Homes Programme to be extended beyond 2016.
The scheme mandates measures to improve the quality of social housing, including through the replacement of older kitchens and bathrooms with new modern facilities.
According to Department of Communities and Local Government statistics, councils built less than 0.5 per cent of homes over the past decade, down from almost half in the three decades following WW2.
Nearly 1 in 8 London households live in a council home, almost twice the level in other parts of England, and demand is growing with more than 380,000 Londoners currently on local authority waiting lists.
A majority of AMs also back measures to stop the sale of new council housing and restrict the sale of homes to private landlords, although Conservative members of the Committee dissent from this part of the report.
Committee chair Darren Johnson AM said: “Poor supply and rising rents mean that London Boroughs, hindered by overly cautious borrowing rules, need help to increase the supply of housing. We’re calling on the Mayor to put pressure on the Treasury to lift caps allowing more sustainable borrowing to build the homes Londoners need.
“Funding is also vital to ensure council property standards do not hinder tenants’ quality of life. We ask that purely cosmetic changes to dilapidated properties, acting as little more than a sticking plaster, are replaced by carefully considered upgrades and rebuilds and, where needed, new council housing. It is likely only half the number of homes will be built this year by councils than were sold last year via right to buy.”
“Measures are needed now to give London councils the support needed to allow them the right to build.”
The report has been welcomed by London Councils, the body which represents the capital’s local authorities.
The organisation has previously called on the Government to give boroughs the freedom to build the estimated 1m homes needed to tackle London’s growing shortage of affordable housing.