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Red Ken's dodgy housing dossier

Ken Livingstone has produced a paper on housing policy as part of his campaign to be elected Mayor of London. Much of it is the familiar rant that reads like the Dave Spart parody in Private Eye. ("The Thatcher-Reagan neo-liberal economic model that led to the global economic crisis is now being revived by the new government.....")

But mixed in are all sorts of false claims about Boris Johnson's record.

Livingstone says the housing situation has been made worse by:

Boris Johnson's cuts in targets for affordable housing delivery and record of inaction on meeting Londoners housing needs. (He has chosen to do little except falsely claim credit for the record number of affordable housing completions from schemes negotiated and given consent prior to his election and then built in 2008/9 and 2009/10 with the support of extra investment from the Labour

Wrong. Boris has not cut affordable housing delivery targets. Rather, he is on target to deliver 50,000 more affordable homes by 2012, the largest number of affordable homes in a single mayoral term and despite the economic conditions. This will also be the largest number of affordable homes in a four-year period than during the any period of the Labour government from 1997. So far he has completed 26,000 affordable homes. Boris is delivering around double the number of affordable homes each year than Livingstone -around 12,000 compared to average of 6,800 affordable homes each year under Livingstone.

Livingstone also blames:

The new Conservative and Liberal Democrat government's cuts to Labour's plans for housing investment, which will be around £400m in London and have led to a complete moratorium on new projects. London is particularly badly hit by the cuts and our housing crisis will inevitably get much worse.

This is inaccurate. Last year, the Labour government cut £350 million from London's housing budget to redirect funds to its heartlands in the North of England. There has not been a cut of £400m to London's housing budgets under the new government. Instead, the government has reduced the extra funding
the government is making available for housing across the whole of England. Boris's lobbying means that London will benefit from around half of the extra funding and will have £150 million available for housing this year that's up to 2,000 extra affordable homes.

The schemes under KickStart which are being reviewed would have delivered fewer than 200 affordable homes as the initiative was intended to fund private sector development. Some of these schemes in London will so go ahead, but some without public funding. Over his term, the Mayor will have invested almost £5 billion into housing in London.

Livingstone condemns:

The new government's calculated assault on people in private rented homes, through their proposed Housing Benefit cap, which will hit lower income Londoners, older and disabled people disproportionately, affecting nearly all Housing Benefit-supported tenants in inner London and a majority of those in more traditionally suburban areas. Many will be forced out of their homes or deeper into poverty.

The housing benefit bill is costing taxpayers over £20 billion a year, with some landlords taking advantage of the system and charging over £100,000 in rent. However, Boris is concerned that changes to the system do not impact on the most vulnerable and has asked the government to do two things - first, transition arrangements to mitigate the impact on London and an increase the funding available to help the most vulnerable households, including those disabled and with children, to continue living in their homes or boroughs; and second, that landlords with tenants on housing benefit should be accredited to drive out rogue landlords. He is making this case to government jointly with Labour's Jules Pipe, Chairman of London councils.

Liivingstone says:

Despite notable progress in the period 2000-2008, we still need to provide more, good quality and secure homes as a top priority during the next period of the mayoralty.

It is wrong to imply that supply was greater in 2000-2008. Boris is delivering around double the number of affordable homes each year than Livingstone  - around 12,000 compared to average of 6,800 affordable homes each year under Livingstone.

Livingstone says:

The number of new homes starting construction each year has fallen and will be down further this year. The number is likely to collapse in 2011/12 without a change in policy. Boris Johnson has allowed the momentum built up by London government to evaporate. We will have to start again in 2012.

This is completely wrong. Housing starts in London increased by 138% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year. Net affordable housing starts have increased by around 40%compared to the last two years of Ken. Overall, according to the Department of Communities and Local Government, last year London was the only region to see an increase in net housing supply (by 3%compared to a 20% drop in the rest of England.

Livingstone says:

Boris Johnson's housing policies make it harder to deliver cheaper homes for those most in need. His plan does not show how London will meet the numbers of affordable homes the city needs. It has been calculated that London needs 18,200 affordable homes per year. Yet his plan proposes a
target of just 13,200. This is 40% of all new housing in London, down from 50% under the last London Plan.

It is wrong to suggest that 50% of homes being delivered were affordable under Ken. He never delivered the 50% target – instead it delivered just an average of 34% and often acted as a barrier to development. 13,200 would be more affordable homes than the net figure delivered in any given year under Livingstone.

Livingstone says:

Boris is ending the policy that fifty per cent of new homes should be affordable.

Livingstone never achieved 50%, he only achieved 34% on average.

Livingsstone says:

Boris plans to reduce the proportion of affordable homes available for social rent.

The majority of affordable housing under Boris is social rent – his ratio of 60% social, 40% low cost home ownership is the same proportion in Ken’s housing strategy. To achieve 60% would be a larger proportion of social rented housing than the last investment round under Ken who delivered around 55 percent.

Livingstone says:

Boris's plan will spread public money available to hard working families more thinly by making the same support available to those earning above £60,000 a year available to households earning up to £74,000. Giving priority to higher earning families will mean that fewer on ordinary incomes will be able to gain access to home-ownership.

Boris is helping families on a range of incomes. He has increase low cost home ownership opportunities by a third, and has supported specific products to help people with an income of £20,000. He is not proposing to help all households earning up to £74,000. Under existing policy, any single person earning up to £60,000 will quality. Under Boris’s policy only families with children in need of a larger home will be able to qualify up to £74,000 in an effort to help reduce overcrowding and support families who would otherwise be priorities for social housing.

Liivngstone says:

He has broken his election promise to build 50,000 affordable homes over three years.

Boris is on track to deliver a record number of affordable homes – 50,000 by 2012 would be the most number of affordable homes in a single Mayoral term.

Livingstone says:

Then director of Shelter, Adam Sampson, warned "the mayor's proposals will, if implemented, serve merely to perpetuate the wealth and class divisions in the nation's capital. (Tory home truths for London's poor, Adam Sampson, Guardian Comment is Free, 20/1/09).

Get with the beat, grandad. The current chief executive of Shelter, Campbell Robb, says: "Shelter welcomes the Mayor's commitment to delivering family-sized affordable homes and we echo his call on the government to protect investment in housing to help deliver homes and jobs not just in London, but across the country."

Livingstone says:

Boris Johnson's inaction and capitulation to Tory boroughs fails to recognise the need for a strategic pan-London approach to housing. That undermines the drive to build more homes for London as a whole and to improve mobility across borough boundaries. Deliberate gentrification and threats to remove social tenants in some boroughs through new development schemes and government-imposed national cuts in the Housing Benefit caps will entrench Tory majorities and make Shirley Porter look as if she was lacking in ambition. In 2007/8, the last year before Boris Johnson became Mayor, 17,200 new private sector homes were built, the highest level in at least 40 years, while affordable housing supply was 10,400, higher than at any point since the early 1980s. In addition the supply of new intermediate housing (for example shared ownership or rent-to-buy) in London increased significantly to around 6,000 homes in 2007/08, up from fewer than 2,000 at the turn of the decade.

To make this claim, Ken had to include several hundred hostel places and the provision of gypsy and traveller places as homes. The number is still fewer than Boris has proposed in the replacement London Plan which is 33,400 homes.

Livingstone continues on from the point above:

This was a direct result of the policies based on active intervention and with support from the largest ever investment programme made via the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) by the Labour government.

The HCA did not exist until 1 December 2008, after Livingstone left office, so this is an odd claim - and the HCA London board chaired by the Mayor of London was set up under Boris.

Livingstone says:

A progressive approach to housing continued to impact in the two years following the change in administration at City Hall, with 26,000 new affordable homes being completed in London during that time. But new house building starts are already in decline and will fall sharply over the next two years.

Wrong. According to London Plan annual monitoring data, housing starts are up 40% on Livingstone's last two years.

Livingstone says:

Despite his supposed commitments to open government and transparency the papers that go to the London Homes and Communities Agency Board chaired by Boris Johnson are not made public in an attempt to hide the true position about the big decline that is coming in housing starts. I will demand these are made public, using the Freedom of Information Act if necessary, so he can be held to account for his record of failure in real time month by month.

The agenda and minutes are published on the website as are non-confidential papers. There have been no FOI requests.

Livingstone says:

Over 350,000 households, almost 10 per cent of the total in London, are on a local authority waiting list, up from 179,000 ten years ago.

Waiting lists went up by 80% under Livingstone - to 330,000. Boris is starting to tackle acute housing need, with over 16,000 fewer families in temporary accommodation since he came to office - with the
fewest number of households in temporary housing for ten years.

Livingstone says:

The 210,000 overcrowded households in London are comprised roughly of 100,000 in social housing, 60,000 private renters and 50,000 owner occupiers.

Overcrowding doubled in some tenures during Ken Livingstone's period in office. Boris has made London the first city to pledge to halve severe overcrowding by 2016. Under Boris, the largest number of family-sized affordable homes have been delivered for a decade - almost half (42%) of social rented homes will have 3 or more bedrooms.

Livingstone says:

London needs around 4,400 additional units specialist housing for people who need support, such as disabled people, a number that could rise to 5,800 by 2017 if current need is not met.

Boris pledged to increase the number of supported homes to 1,250 - and has delivered almost double that at 3,363 over this investment round.

Livingstone says:

 I got the government to accept a major new council house building programme in London, the first for many years.

There were no new council house building programmes under the previous mayor. Instead, funding was signed off under Boris to Croydon to develop family-sized council homes.

Livingstone says:

For the first time in any statutory plan, London government set a target for intermediate affordable housing (part rent-part buy and sub-market rented housing) in recognition of the fact that many Londoners could not afford to buy and could not access social housing.

Livingstone's housing strategy was never statutory, only draft. Boris negotiated and delivered many hundreds of new homes on GLA group owned land in partnership with local boroughs, including high profile schemes at Dalston Junction and St Andrew's Hospital in Bromley by Bow.

Livingstone says:

This contrasts with Boris Johnson's failure in direct breach of his election promises to start any new housing development on GLA group land that was not already approved when I was Mayor.

This is wrong. Under Livingstone, the GLA did not have a full list of sites it owned. Boris has undertaken an audit and sites and now being brought to the market, together with a new London Housing Company to bring public land forward for development together with private finance. Notably, Boris has also sorted out the scandal of hundreds of empty homes on TfL land on the North Circular, in Enfield, which will now provide 400 homes under a £55 million grant from the Homes and Communities Agency chaired by the

Livingstone says:

I will support calls for more local responsibility and for Councils to have the right to borrow against their assets and to build homes again, forming joint ventures with local authorities, housing associations and private developers as necessary to help release assets and enable private capital, for example from the Bond Markets or other sources of private equity, to be used to support dwindling public investment. I will work in partnership with Local Authorities to leverage the value of GLA group and local authority assets to this end.

Much of this is already happening. Housing associations currently raise funding on the bond market for new homes - around £50 billion - and Boris is already bringing forward land owned by the GLA family for housing development, funded by institutional investors.

Livinsgtonee says:

With energy prices projected to continue to rise steeply, allied to the critical need to reduce carbon emissions, home energy efficiency should be at the top of the Mayor's in-tray, not an after-thought as with City Hall's current approach.

Boris has developed ambitious plans for retrofitting new homes, with the aim of retrofitting 100,000 homes in London a year from 2012.

Livingstone says he would:

Use the Mayor's planning powers to negotiate the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing in private development schemes.

This is happening already. Livingstone wants to bring back his failed 50% target which only ever delivered 34% - if the approach failed during the boom years it will be a burden to developers during tough economic times.

Livingstone says he would:

Make better use of publicly-owned land to provide affordable homes in mixed developments, including an expanding council house building programme.

This is happening. Boris has sorted out the scandal of empty homes on TfL land in Enfield and is bringing forward land to develop up to 33,000 homes on GLA family owned land.

Livingstone says:

Meeting London's housing need must not happen at the expense of Green Belt, parks, gardens and other public spaces that make crowded cities pleasurable places in which to live.

Boris has protected green spaces by adding to the London Plan the presumption against development on back gradens - something Livingstone didn't do in eight years.

Livingstone says he would:

Propose changes that will allow public bodies such as the GLA group and London boroughs to borrow against their assets on the Bond Markets to invest in the development of new affordable housing. I want to raise money on the bond markets to build affordable homes, including for rent, to break the back of the housing shortage and create work.

This is happening to some extent, where boroughs already having prudential borrowing powers. Boris is extending the scope for boroughs to do this under his new plans for housing powers in London. He is also attracting institutional finance to housing development in London for the private rented and intermediate sector.

Livingstone says he would:

Change the balance of new affordable housing to 70% for social rent and 30% for intermediate tenures.

Livingstone never achieved more than an average 55% of social rented homes and 70% would make many sites unviable in London. Boris is delivering more housing with sensible expectations on developers.

Livingstone says he would:

Ensure that half of the affordable housing programme is family-sized homes.

This is already happening. Almost half of social rented homes in London are family-sized - the largest proportion since the GLA was set up.

Livingstone says he would:

Develop a specific plan to tackle extreme housing need, especially overcrowding and homelessness.

This is happening. Boris has made London the first city to commit to halving severe overcrowding and has produced an action plan with housing associations and councils. The work of the London Delivery Board to end rough sleeping has already seen three-quarters of London's most entrenched rough sleepers helped into accomodation. The capital also has 16,000 fewer households in temporary housing since Boris came to office - the lowest number for a decade.

Livingstone says he would:

Work with relevant agencies to rethink housing provision in London for single people on low incomes including students.

This is happening. The mayor is helping low incomes Londoners by doubling the number of intermediate rent homes available.

Livingstone says he would:

Make sure resources are available to complete the Decent Homes programme and set a target for a new standard for social homes for the future, tackling the backlog of major repairs and making major improvements in energy efficiency.

This is happening. Boris protected the Decent Homes programme by finding the funds for those councils becoming eligible after the Labour government cut funding for 100,000 homes across London

Livingstone says he would:

Encourage greater involvement of tenants and residents in running their homes, including doing far more to support mutual and co-operative models.

This is happening. Boris is about to pilot to first urban community land trust - something Livingstone promised but never delivered.

Liivingstone says he would:

Make sure the London boroughs use their powers to maximum effect to keep the number of empty properties to a minimum.

This is happening. Boris's manifesto promised £60 million to bring empty homes back into use and he has made that funding available to boroughs. Boris also promised an audit of all empty homes, which has
been completed, with the aim of ensuring that just 1 percent of the stock in London is empty at any given time.

Livingstone says he would:

Promote the provision of supported housing and campaign to ensure sufficient resources are directed towards providing homes for some of the most vulnerable people in London.

This is happening. Boris significantly increased the number of supported homes and has achieved more than double his target - almost 3,400 homes in this investment round.


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