Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Livingstone plans pension fund investment for London homes

Ken Livingstone has pledged to use pension funds to build more social housing in London if he wins his bid to be elected as mayor of London.

Mr Livingstone is understood to be in talks with local authorities over a scheme to pool their money and invest directly in social housing, getting a better return on their investment by forgoing management fees.

The Labour candidate claimed institutional investment was the solution to a virtual ban on building new council houses during a debate in Westminster on Wednesday night with Conservative candidate Boris Johnson, Green candidate Jenny Jones and Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick.

During the debate, organized by the Evening Standard and chaired by Clive Anderson, Mr Livingstone attacked successive governments for not building more council housing.

He said: ‘Apart from the Iraq war my biggest disagreement with Tony Blair was he carried on Thatcher’s ban on building council housing. I’ll go to the pension funds and get them to invest in building housing until we can get a government that is prepared to invest.’

Mr Livingstone also attacked Boris Johnson for the large rises in private rents in the capital. He added: ‘You don’t want a mayor who has stood by and done nothing while the private rented sector has become the most disgraceful rip off, with people paying a majority of their income to landlords. You want a mayor who is going to campaign to make this a fairer city.’

Mr Johnson defended his record on social housing, saying the 52,000 affordable homes built in the last four years was a record for one mayoral term. He also committed to building a further 55,000 affordable homes between 2011-2015, 42 per cent of which would be family homes.

Brian Paddick was the only candidate to mention housing in his opening speech, highlighting the high cost of private rents in London. He later pledged to build 360,000 new homes, half of which could be social housing, on brownfield sites to ‘tackle the housing market overheating’.

The strongest criticism of the state of social housing came from independent candidate Siobhan Benita. She was excluded from the panel, but later told Inside Housing: ‘What you’re finding is that day to day Londoners cannot afford to buy a home anymore and increasingly cannot afford to rent in London anymore. We need a mayor who takes this seriously, it’s one of the biggest issues in London and they [the main candidates] are paying lip service to it at the moment and it’s not enough.’

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