Sadiq Khan has hit back at claims he is building “tower blocks people do not want” in a “desperate” bid to reach his housing targets.
The Mayor of London revealed on Monday that he had hit the Government’s target of starting work on 116,000 new affordable homes by April 2023. He achieved the milestone after work was started on a record 25,658 affordable properties in the last year.
The Government had given City Hall some £4.82 billion to help it meet the 116,000-home target.
But Shaun Bailey – City Hall Conservatives housing spokesperson – said Mr Khan had “failed to deliver the affordable, family homes that Londoners need”.
He added: “Despite having billions in government funding, the Mayor has resorted to building tower blocks people do not want in a desperate struggle to meet this target.”
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Responding, Mr Khan said: “I accept my political opponents are shedding a tear today, because we’ve smashed the targets set by their Government.
“The reality is this – the Government set the target in 2016, before Brexit, before the labour shortages, before the material shortages, before the pandemic, before interest rates went up because of government mismanagement, before construction inflation. We’ve not just met the target, we’ve smashed it.”
The Government recognised the pandemic’s impact by extending the programme’s deadline from 2022 to 2023.
The Mayor pointed out that he had already made meeting the target “harder for himself” by changing the definition of “affordable” housing in London – used by the previous mayor, Boris Johnson. Under that definition, “affordable” meant rents of up to 80 per cent of market levels.
Mr Khan defines “genuinely affordable” homes as those set at a traditional social rent level, at the London Living Rent level benchmarked at a third of average local earnings, or those capped at City Hall’s London Affordable Rent standard, as well as shared ownership properties.
The Mayor also defended the mix of property types currently being built in London, pointing to a new set of terraced council houses he visited in Stonebridge earlier this month as one example.
He urged his Conservative opponents to lobby their colleagues in Government to provide more funding for more homes in the capital.
Mr Bailey, who stood against Mr Khan as the Conservative candidate in the 2021 mayoral election, also said no progress had yet been made on the next round of the affordable homes programme, which began in 2021 and ends in 2026.
City Hall has been given some £4 billion by the Government to start work on that programme, with a target of 35,000 homes started by 2026 – but two years since the scheme’s launch, no properties have yet been started as part of it.
Asked about progress on the 2026 deadline, the Mayor said: “Watch this space. Let’s celebrate the great news today from the 2016-23 [programme].
“Judge me by my record – every target met I’ve smashed, and I’m sure the target set by the Government up to 2026 we’ll smash as well.” In a speech announcing his latest housebuilding targets on Monday, Mr Khan warned that the housing crisis remained a major threat to the city’s “soul”.
He said: “Even if young Londoners were to live Spartan-like lives, huge numbers would still struggle to eke out enough spaces for a solicitor and surveyor, never mind a serious deposit – not when the average deposit for a first-time buyer in London has recently been as high as £150,000.
“You could cut back on your standard Netflix subscription every month for the next thousand years, and it still wouldn’t be enough to raise that frankly absurd sum.
“So for those peddling the ridiculous notion that young people just need to stop complaining and start saving, my message is this: get real.
“As Mayor, I don’t want to see London become a playground for the rich. I’m determined to create a London for everybody.”
The 116,000 homes delivered over the last seven years is the equivalent number of homes as a city the size of Plymouth, City Hall said.