A guest blog from our friend Glyn Robbins at Axe the Housing Act.
Sadiq Khan said he would make his 2016 election campaign a ‘referendum on housing’. When he needed votes, Khan talked about the importance of council housing, the need to curb private landlords and property speculators and pledged to ‘fix the Tory housing crisis’. Less than a year later, there are already signs that Mayor Khan is retreating from some of his manifesto commitments and adopting policies that are worryingly close to those he claims to challenge.
Criticisms of Khan’s emerging housing policies arose almost as soon as he was elected, in particular his drooping of a pledge to push for a rent freeze. But this is just one of several examples of Khan seeming to care more about developers than people in housing need. His original aspiration to make 50% of new homes ‘affordable’ (even allowing for the elasticity of the term) has already been dropped to 35%. Promises to protect residents and social rented homes on estates faced with ball and chain regeneration projects have been diluted. Meanwhile, despite the enormous threat it represents, Khan has been virtually silent on the Housing and Planning Act.
A closer look at Khan’s policies give further cause for concern. He has a budget of £3.15 billion to deliver 90,000 new ‘affordable’ homes by 2021. But 65% of these will be ’home ownership products’ targeted at people with income well above the London median (£30,000). His much vaunted London Living Rent will be available to those with income up to £60,000, will be let on short-term tenancies and provide landlords with significant flexibility for increasing rents. People with income up to £90,000 will be eligible for his London Shared Ownership, a tenure that research (including by the GLA!) has repeatedly found fails to make a significant contribution to reducing housing need. Nowhere in Khan’s blizzard of new policies is there any commitment to build and invest in council housing, the only source of a genuinely affordable, secure rental home for most Londoners for generations.
Alongside his repeated civic boosterism of London as ‘the greatest city in the world’, it’s clear that Khan is preparing the ground for a continuation of the kind of social (and ethnic) cleansing of working class neighbourhoods that has characterised the last twenty years.
The Axe the Housing Act campaign is calling on Mayor Khan to do better. We want firm commitments to build the homes we need, which means thousands of new council homes, particularly on public land. We want him to fulfil his promise to help all private renters, not just a few. And we want him to get involved in the campaign against the Act which would make the housing crisis worse.
A copy of the open letter to Sadiq Khan is here. Please sign, share and return to firstname.lastname@example.org