Labour’s most powerful politician is at odds with his party over Government plans to solve the housing crisis.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan today praised Tory plans to reform the way the house market operates, including giving local councils more power to force developers to start building on land they own.
Other measures include making renting more secure and a crack down on rogue private landlords.
The paper also signaled an abandoning of a flagship pledge to build 200,000 discount homes for first-time buyers by 2020, leading Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary to describe it as “a white flag not a white paper.”
Yet writing in The Times Red Box today, Khan took a different approach, and said: “The government has not done nearly enough to solve the housing crisis over the last seven years, but yesterday’s housing white paper points us in a better direction.
“In recent years the Tories have made things worse rather than better. But I will always put aside party politics when it is in Londoners’ best interests and work with anyone to get a good deal for the city.
“Although the proposals set out in the white paper could undoubtedly have gone further, they show some promising signs for Londoners.”
Khan went on to praise the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid for focusing on helping people in the renting sector – including purpose built houses for letting and an end to agents’ fees.
The London Mayor added: “Ministers are right to set out a wide range of proposals to help boost homebuilding – from off-site manufacturing, to encouraging greater density housing developments, and preventing developers from sitting on land for too long. The proposals also confront some potential trade-offs. It’s good to see, for example, a new focus on sites around transport hubs, rather than weakening protections for the greenbelt.”
The warm words from Khan are in contrast the line from the national party and Shadow Housing Minister John Healey said on Tuesday: “It is tragically clear from this feeble white paper that seven years of failure on housing under Conservative ministers is set to stretch to ten.
“We were promised a white paper; we’ve got a white flag.
“This is a Government with no plan to fix the country’s deepening housing crisis.”
Healey was particularly angry with the Government scrapping a manifesto pledge to build 200,000 starter homes within five years.
The homes would only be available to first time buyers under the age of 40, and priced at a discount of at least 20 percent of their market value.
Khan, however, welcomed this u-turn, arguing “a ‘one size fits all’ approach” to helping people get on the housing ladder would not work.
He said: “The new ministerial team has replaced a rigid requirement introduced under David Cameron for all developments to include starter homes costing up to £450,000 – a type of housing I have long argued would not be genuinely affordable for many Londoners – with a more flexible approach to boosting home ownership. Their new approach will support my goal of helping more first-time buyers.”
The Government’s white paper says 225,000 to 275,000 houses needed to be built per year to keep up with population growth.
“The problem is threefold: not enough local authorities planning for the homes they need; house building that is simply too slow; and a construction industry that is too reliant on a small number of big players,” the report says.
Even though more than 250,000 homes were given planning permission in 2015/16, just over 150,000 houses actually built.