The blurb advertising the upcoming Chartered Institute of Housing London Conference starts with a surprising statement. It says:
“Housing is key in delivering the wider economic and social ambitions for London and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is committed to tackling the capital’s many housing challenges.”
Really? Let’s test this notion by looking at the recently published housebuilding and homelessness statistics.
At the mayoral Election last year, Boris Johnson took considerable credit for the scale of affordable housebuilding in London during his first four year term, despite the evidence that the homes being built were those approved by Ken Livingstone prior to his defeat in 2008 and funded by Gordon Brown prior to his defeat in 2010. The Coalition ended Labour’s National Affordable Housing Programme (NAHP) in March 2011 (subsequent starts under that heading were those committed before the programme ended). Instead it brought in its own Affordable Housing Programme, which introduced the so-called ‘affordable rent’ product (at rents of up to 80% of market levels). Johnson made substantial claims about how many (unaffordable) affordable homes he would provide during his current term.
The latest statistics showing GLA-funded housing starts and completions makes depressing reading. Homes started under Labour’s NAHP have suffered massive but predictable decline as the programme concluded, down from over 15,000 new affordable homes (defined as social rent, intermediate rent and affordable home ownership) in each of 2009/10 and 2010/11 to a tiny 340 in 2011/12 and 411 in 2012/13.
In theory (well, Boris-style promises) this programme has been replaced by a bright shiny new scheme. But the new Johnson AHP started only 3,659 new homes in 2011/12 and only 8,923 in 2012/13. Even affordable home ownership, which Johnson supposedly supports enthusiastically, achieved only 4,187 starts in the two years 2011/12 and 2012/13 compared to 7,124 in 2009/10 and 2010/11 under the Livingstone plans. The decline is most severe in social rent, with most of the new AHP homes being at the much higher ‘affordable rent’. Characterised by confusion, uncertainty and difficult negotiations with housing providers over viability, the new AHP suffered severe delays. As a result, the programme is heavily backloaded (ie most homes will be provided in the final year) and there are growing and severe doubts about delivery.
Among the boroughs, only Brent and Tower Hamlets started more than 1,000 affordable homes (on the widest definition) in 2012/13 using GLA money. One of the historically strongest boroughs in terms of providing affordable homes, Hammersmith and Fulham, plummeted down to just 70 affordable starts as the Tory Council’s gentrification plans proceed.
The affordable housebuilding graph goes down but the homelessness graph goes up.
Nationally, the continuous decline in homelessness acceptances that Labour achieved from 2003 to 2010 has gone firmly into reverse. As the latest homelessness statistics show, in London the number of households accepted as being owed ‘a main homelessness duty’ in the last quarter of 2012 was 4,210. This was an increase of 22% from the same quarter in 2011 (and was 31% of the England total). In London, the main reason for the loss of last settled home is now the ending of an assured shorthold tenancy – 1,200 (28%). This is an increase of 61% from 740 in the same quarter in 2011.
The number of households in temporary accommodation in London at 31 December 2012 was 38,860. This is an 8% increase compared to the previous year (35,920) and accounts for 73% of the total England figure. The number of households in B&B accommodation in London is 2,270, an increase of 35% from 1,680 at 31 December 2011. London accounts for 57% of the total England figure.
The growing importance of homelessness caused by the ending of a private rented tenancy is of great concern. As councils are now able to discharge their homelessness duty by finding private accommodation for an applicant, families are in increasing danger of the ‘revolving door’: becoming homeless, being rehoused in insecure private accommodation and then, in due course, becoming homeless again.
Rising homelessness and falling affordable housing starts are only 2 key indicators of the growing housing emergency in London. Boris Johnson, meanwhile, seems to be spending more and more of his time angling for the Tory Leadership and going on jollies around the world at our expense. As he won’t be standing again, he is no longer accountable to London and Londoners for his hopeless policies.
So, CIH, do you still think Johnson is ‘committed to tackling the capital’s many housing challenges’?