Sadiq Khan, the MP for Tooting, has just been named as Labour’s candidate for next year’s London mayoral election.
In this piece he wrote for the Staggers, first published last June, he explains why his priority as mayor would be housing.
The London I grew up in was full of communities made up of families and friends who had lived on the same streets and in the same area for years. The social benefits of that sense of community were there for all to see – the neighbour who would keep an eye on your house, a relative who could step in for a bit of emergency child minding, or the friend you went through primary and secondary school with celebrating the birth of your first child. It was London at its best.
Today much of that community has been lost. The main reason for that has been the lack of enough new and affordable homes. It is the single biggest thing that Londoners need from their next mayor: a solution to the housing crisis.
That’s why I’m running for mayor – because I believe I am the best candidate to build the homes Londoners need.
There is no silver bullet on housing. Fixing the crisis will require us to roll up our sleeves every day, and get on with the hands-on work of bringing forward land, getting developments approved and then getting on with building them. I have a comprehensive plan to do just that.
I will lead a new London Homes Team at City Hall. I don’t want to waste time creating a new external organisation. I will start putting this team in place from day one and they will report directly to my desk. They will work around the clock on getting London building. They will bring forward developments on land controlled by the mayor – from finding the land, sourcing the funding to planning and developing. And crucially, they will work with town halls to help them develop their own new homes teams, and to bring forward land and investment for building. They will be an in-house dedicated development team, working with councils, housing associations and business in order to build more homes for Londoners.
Firstly they will get on with sorting out financing – new homes need money to build them. It is an obscenity, with the housing crisis London faces, that the present mayor is sitting on a £400m underspend in his affordable housing budget not being used for Londoners. So the first thing I will do is get that money working for Londoners – working with councils, developers and housing associations to get more social homes built.
I will develop a new “London Home Bond”, to bring in much needed private investment and will fight for greater financial devolution to do this on a grand scale. I will also work with pension funds to develop products that attract them to invest in housing. Meanwhile, I will fight for freedom for councils to invest more in new social and affordable homes.
But there is no point in building new homes if they are not available to Londoners. As mayor, I will use all my powers and investment to put Londoners first when it comes to housing. I will reinstate a 50 per cent target for genuinely affordable homes, putting Londoners needs ahead of massive windfalls for landowners and developers. I will use planning powers to prevent “buy-to-leave” investors buying homes just to leave them empty, and ensure local tenants and first-time buyers are offered first refusal on new homes.
And while we build the homes we need, I will do everything I can to protect Londoners renting in the private sector. I’ll introduce a new “London Living Rent” model of intermediate housing – linking rents to a third of income. I’ll create a London-wide social letting agency, building on the brilliant work of London Councils and I’ll push the Government to give the mayor the power to freeze rents in the private sector.
This Tory Government are planning a toxic mix of policies that will make the housing crisis many times worse. They want to reduce the benefit cap in London even further and sell off housing association homes. Together these policies will exacerbate the crisis and rip London’s communities apart. I will work with politicians from all parties, businesses and community leaders to stop this from happening.
Fixing the housing crisis really is the greatest challenge facing my generation in London. We can only do it if we work together – changing London for the better, together. But if we are to succeed, we need a hands-on Mayor, willing to roll up their sleeves and get on with the hard graft of building the homes we need.
This article was originally posted in June 2015 on our sister site, The Staggers.
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