Tessa Jowell has promised to set up a new City Hall agency tasked with building thousands of affordable new homes each year if she becomes Mayor.
The former cabinet minister made the vow as she officially launched her bid to be selected as Labour’s candidate in next year’s mayoral contest.
Addressing an audience of supporters and party members who’d gathered in Brixton to mark the start of her campaign, Dame Tessa said it was no longer enough for City Hall to merely “exhort others” to build homes.
She said meeting the growing need for housing would require the next Mayor “to use every available resource that City Hall can call on” including freeing up surplus land owned by the Mayor and Transport for London for new homes.
Jowell said a new ‘Homes for Londoners’ agency would be established “on day one of my mayoralty” to fulfil the pledge.
But she warned supporters and party members that they would only be able to improve the lives of Londoners if they win the election, a feat Labour has only achieved once since the office of Mayor was created in 2000.
Despite Labour’s relatively good performance in London at the general election, the party still polled far below the 50.1% of the vote required to win the Mayoralty.
Referring to the need to secure the backing of other parties’ supporters to cross the finishing line, Dame Tessa told her audience: “We have to look outward to all of London. Ken won with Tory votes and Boris won with Labour votes – you can’t do it any other way.
“If we can’t win over Tory voters we can’t win.”
Stephen Greenhalgh, currently the front-runner to become the Conservative candidate, said Dame Tessa’s promised 2,000 homes a year “won’t scratch the surface of London’s housing problems” and warned against confusing “a delivery agency with delivery”.
He added: “The challenge is unlocking hundreds of smaller sites at speed, not focusing on a few Olympic-style projects that won’t produce homes before the next decade.
“Nor is it enough simply to build. We need to help young Londoners and key workers get on the housing ladder through discounts, part-ownership and intermediate homes. The Labour old guard pay lip-service to ownership, but still think the ideal is council rents for life.”
Labour will select its Mayoral candidate via a ballot of party members and registered supporters this summer. Other confirmed runners include transport expert Christian Wolmar and MPs Diane Abbott and David Lammy.