Sunday, 30 April 2017

Social housing tenants treated like 'Downton Abbey' servants

Boris Johnson was quizzed on a wide range of housing issues at Mayor’s Question Time yesterday, including the ‘Downton Abbey’ style treatment social housing tenants are subjected to.

Social housing tenants are being treated in an Edwardian manner similar to Downton Abbey with separate doors and lifts for private tenants, the chair of the Housing Committee said.

When quizzing Boris Johnson about whether he was willing to do anything about developments where there is segregation between social and private tenants, Darren Johnson referred to the popular TV show as a reference to how dated this kind of division is – referring specifically to One The Elephant.

The development has no affordable housing, as the developers said in the local council report that affordable homes would reduce the sale value of private flats, and a separate entrance and lift would add too much to the cost of development.

Mr Johnson said: ‘It’s like something out of Downton Abbey - the poor servants have one entrance and the wealthy have another.’

He added after QT: ‘It’s outrageous that developers are trying to force ordinary Londoners to use the door round the back so they can sell luxury flats to rich investors. I’m disappointed that the Mayor refused to clamp down on this trend, which is like something out of Downton Abbey. He is helping rich investors build expensive flats, not Londoners get a home they can afford.

‘The Mayor should threaten to refuse applications that segregate affordable housing. We also need taxes to damp down demand from rich investors, a social housing budget big enough to actually meet London’s needs, and regulation to stabilise private rents.’

Mr Johnson argued that the important point is to build more homes in the capital and said ‘I always insist on mixed developments’, however ‘when they are not possible’ the developer provides money for affordable housing elsewhere. He said this is not ideal and he regularly ‘kicks out’ schemes that don’t have affordable homes.

He said the Greater London Authority has made more than £2 billion of its own land available for affordable developments since last May.

Tom Copley, deputy chair of the housing committee, challenged Mr Johnson on the number of landlords who were accredited – saying only 13,000 are currently signed up while there are 300,000 PRS landlords in London. He said at the current rate of 2,400 in the 17 months since Boris pledged to get 100,000 landlords accredited, it would take 51 years to reach the target.

Mr Copley also asked Mr Johnson why there hadn’t been a housing plan published since 2010, when there was a draft strategy in 2011 and consultation in 2012. He said a new strategy was now not expected to be published until 2014 four years after the last one.

Mr Johnson said he is getting on with a new draft strategy because there had been significant changes in London when it comes to housing over the last few years.

On the topic of the new housing strategy, he was asked whether he would include more dedicated accommodation for key workers by Nicky Gavron.

She also asked what his stance on developers land banking in the city is, to which he replied that he did not believe in ‘Mugabe-esque’ confiscation.

He added that if developers ‘are sitting on land for a very long time there should be some laws and powers’ to get them to start building.

Fiona Twycross asked whether Mr Johnson would consider the Housing and Regeneration Committee’s report Making London’s private rented sector fit for purpose, released in June, which suggested a second generation of rent reforms.

Boris replied that rent reforms sound good on paper, but they could limit the supply of properties for rent and that the main problem is supply.

On Help to Buy 2, Boris said it was to early to make any kind of assessment of the impact, however he said he is ‘keeping an eye on it’.

To read more about the private rented sector click here.

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