It looks like Boris is going to be able to boast that he hit his target of 50,000 affordable homes built over the course of his term.
Of course, we can point out that many of those homes were in the pipeline from Ken’s days anyway; he stretched the length of his original pledge from three years to four years; and that much of the money came from the Labour government’s investment in housing during the recession. But, the claim will pass muster and get in the press without much criticism.
He’s got a problem however with the next four years as he prepares for the election campaign. It’s going to be very obvious that under this government affordable housing in London is going to plummet. Housing associations are putting in their bids now for how many homes they’ll build over the course of the next four years. By late this year, we’ll know the four-year programmes of London’s biggest housing associations, be able to add them up and see (I predict) a fairly grim picture for affordable house building in the capital.
The current profile for new affordable homes is in the graph below. The government’s programme won’t pull it out of this nosedive.
With supply only coming from housing associations, the Mayor will struggle to explain how he’ll increase those numbers and from where. And worse for a Mayor who made so much of family housing, we’re likely to see very few larger homes in those figures.
This will be an open goal for Ken Livingstone. And Ken will run heavily on the fact that the new ‘affordable housing’ isn’t actually affordable in many parts of London, especially where there is most housing need.
So, what will Boris do? He can campaign and lobby for more cash/help for London. He may seek to portray himself as the one who can get concessions from central government, in a way Ken can’t. Or, he can distance himself from the government, criticise the policy and join the voices showing the damage being done in the capital. He has plenty of form on this, but will a belated criticism work? The one thing I can’t see is him defending government policy and making the case for it.
The task for Ken will be to explain how he’d do better given the policies of the current government and the state of the public finances. And if he wins he’ll actually have to do something about it.