THE BLOG

Don't Be Fooled - The Tory Housing Bill Will Make London's Housing Crisis Worse

12/01/2016 14:52 GMT | Updated 12/01/2017 10:12 GMT

London's Tory housing crisis is worsening by the month. More and more people are finding it increasingly difficult to buy or rent somewhere truly affordable. The impact on the city is enormous - Londoners forced to live further and further away from their family, friends and jobs and businesses struggling to recruit and retain skilled workers.

In the face of this worsening crisis we have the Tory Government's Housing and Planning Bill. You'd think it'd be the perfect opportunity to get to grips with the crisis and do something to help the thousands of Londoners unable to put an affordable roof over their heads.

Instead what we have is a bill that risks making even worse the crisis in London's housing. It's been widely criticised by charities and experts, particularly their plan to sell off affordable housing association properties without any concrete guarantees the homes will be replaced in the local area. And councils will be forced to sell off family homes to pay for this. This could see many areas of London lose precious affordable family homes.

That's why I am seeking to amend the Bill to protect Londoners from the worst excesses of Tory policies. Today the House of Commons will debate one of these amendments, which would say to housing associations, if you're going ahead with selling off homes, you have to spend the money that generates on replacement affordable housing in the local area.

But I'd warn readers to beware of imitations. My Tory opponent for Mayor of London is claiming that another amendment does something very similar for London's affordable homes. But it's baloney. This amendment which I will call the Goldsmith-Cameron amendment, as it has rather cosily been accepted by the Government, is weak and does not go anywhere near far enough to protect London's affordable homes. It's just a cynical attempt to trick Londoners. It's a con.

When the Tories' bill first appeared in the autumn, London's Evening Standard editorial rightly warned the Government: - "Don't lose social houses to fund right to buy". They laid out three tests to judge the impact of the Government's housing bill. These tests are a handy measure of which of the amendments - mine, or the Goldsmith - Cameron amendment - will truly help with London's housing crisis.

The first test says: - "It is absolutely necessary to keep money raised by the sale of London council houses in London". On this, the Goldsmith-Cameron amendment clearly falls short, as it fails to ring-fence the money for London. This means money raised by selling off London's council homes will still flood out of the capital to subsidise the Government's national right-to-buy scheme. Contrast this to my amendment that would ring-fence all the money from London housing association homes being sold under the right-to-buy in London for the construction of new affordable housing.

The second test said "it could be a mixed blessing if some central London boroughs lost most of their housing association stock even if it meant more council houses being built in outer London". I'm afraid the Goldsmith-Cameron amendment fails on this front too as it opens the door for homes to be replaced outside the borough where they have been sold off.

And if there was any doubt this was the case, Zac Goldsmith admitted to the Camden New Journal just last week the truth about his own amendment. He owned up that inner London would be hollowed out under his amendment and he described replacing social housing locally as "a mathematical obstacle" under the plans he has cooked up with the Government!

Compare that to my amendment, which does exactly as it says on the tin. It guarantees a like-for-like replacement in the borough where the original home is sold before the rest of money is spent on more affordable housing across the capital.

In their third test of the Government's proposals, the Evening Standard said: - "A healthy housing sector is a mix of private ownership, private rentals and social housing: the Government, in its attempt to promote homeownership, should not forget the rest". Yet under the Goldsmith-Cameron amendment, the so-called 'affordable homes' they promise to build could all be homes for sale at £450,000.

That Zac Goldsmith thinks homes at nearly half a million pounds are affordable shows how out of touch he is with the needs of Londoners. Unbelievably, the Prime Minister even claimed last week that "the definition of affordable housing is a house that someone can afford to buy or afford to rent". Under his measure homes such as a £26.5million Holland Park mansion sold last year are "affordable" because someone was able to buy them.

What we've seen with the Housing and Planning Bill is a Government devoid of solutions to the city's housing crisis prepared to play games with the lives of Londoners. And Zac Goldsmith simply doesn't understand the housing crisis in London, is bereft of any real solutions to fix this and is going along with an amendment drafted by Number 10. Don't let the Conservatives pull the wool over your eyes - their amendments are far too weak to help London. Any MP who really wants to do something to help fix the Tory housing crisis will be walking through the voting lobby to support my proposals today.

Sadiq Khan MP is Labour's Candidate for Mayor of London