Whoever emerges as the next mayor will have to take drastic action to tackle the capital’s housing crisis, but the need to show they take the issue seriously is leading some candidates to make promises they can’t keep.
If elected, Sadiq Khan says he’d change the capital’s planning framework (known as the London Plan) to mandate that 50% of all new homes in the capital are affordable.
Speaking at last night’s Centre for London and Prospect hustings he promised to do this on the first day of his mayoralty.
In a swipe at rival Tessa Jowell who has vowed to set up a new homes delivery agency if elected, Khan said he would “take personal charge of building more homes…not chair a meeting once a month of a new quango.”
He added: “On developments built in London, at least 50% of those homes should be affordable, that includes social rent, that includes an intermediate level with a London Living Rent of 1/3 of people’s average earnings, and other forms of shared ownership, there could be right to buy, there could be shared ownership as well.”
His pledge to amend the London Plan,“on day one” on his mayoralty is clearly a response to Jowell’s claim that her Homes for Londoners agency would start work on her first day at City Hall.
However while Jowell could probably just about pre-select the agency’s board members prior to taking office so long as she was careful and open about the process, Khan would find it almost impossible to deliver his pledge.
His stated preferred mechanism for mandating the 50% rule is to issue a Supplementary Planning Guidance document, but experts tell me there’s some doubt this would be sufficient and that he could find himself having to amend the plan itself.
If they’re right Khan would be looking at 6-8 months before he could enact the change – Boris recently published “minor alterations” to the plan which won’t be considered by the planning inspector until October.
But let’s err on the side of generosity and assume SPG would be sufficient, this still isn’t something which could come into effect on day one of Khan’s mayoralty.
SPG, like the plan itself and changes to it, must first be published for consultation and of course needs to be drawn up by officials and checked by lawyers before that can happen. This is a lengthy process.
The consultation on an interim Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance – which includes a lot on affordable properties – started on May 15th and doesn’t close until August 7th. Responses to the consultation then need to be considered and any potential changes incorporated into the document.
So the very best Khan is likely to achieve on day one is tasking City Hall officials to draw up a draft SPG which wouldn’t come into effect for months.
It is undoubtably a start, but it’s not the one he’s promising.