Provisions set out in the Housing and Planning Bill, which was published earlier this month, include plans to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants. The scheme would be funded by forcing councils to sell ‘higher value’ housing, with evidence from the Greater London Authority (GLA) suggesting that as many as 10,500 affordable homes in the capital could be sold each year as a result. The money made from selling these homes will go to central Government, not local councils, meaning much of the money raised in the capital could be spent elsewhere given London’s greater number of ‘high value’ homes.
In May, Mayor Boris Johnson set out four conditions which needed to be met if the policy was to work in the capital:
The money raised from council housing sales in London must be spent in London
- The policy must preserve London’s mixed communities
- It must deliver more housing overall
- It must deliver more affordable housing overall
However, the Government’s decision not to include measures which would ensure sums raised in London are retained in the capital means that the current plans fall well short of the Mayor’s ‘red lines’. Mr Qureshi also highlighted that no provision is included in the Bill to guarantee the delivery of more housing and additional affordable housing, whilst concerns abound that the failure to replace social housing in equal numbers will erode London’s traditional mixed communities.
We’re left in no doubt that the Government’s policy to extend Right to Buy to housing association tenants will come at a severe cost to Londoners, with thousands of genuinely affordable homes to be lost in London each year if the Housing Bill becomes law.
Forcing London councils to sell off their housing stock and then using that money to fund new homes elsewhere in the country will devastate the capital and make the housing crisis we face far worse.
With it now abundantly clear that even the Mayor’s limited conditions will not be met, it’s time for Boris Johnson to put his money where his mouth is and oppose the Housing Bill when it next comes before Parliament. If he does not do so he will be betraying Londoners, who rightly expect their Mayor to stand up for this city. What exactly is a red line worth to Boris Johnson if he’s willing to cross it?