Ignore Cameron’s rhetoric. The Tories are the party of falling home ownership

By Sadiq Khan

Let’s start where David Cameron and I agree: more people should be given the chance to buy a home of their own. I'm sure that the prime minister believes that just as strongly as I do.

But that's where we part company.

I'm committed to building the new, affordable homes – to buy and to rent – that Londoners need. Not just new properties for the wealthiest Londoners, or overseas investors, but homes for those on average and low incomes.

Cameron’s record on housing is one of absolute failure. Over the past five years, he as prime minister and Boris Johnson as mayor have overseen a growing crisis in housing for Londoners. On their watch, home ownership in London has fallen from 53% to 48% – fewer than half of Londoners now own the home in which they live. This is not surprising when the average deposit paid for a home in London has hit £100,000 – up from £66,000 five years ago.

That wouldn’t be as much of a problem if there were enough secure and affordable tenancies available elsewhere. But alongside soaring house prices we've seen spiralling rents. And for the many families who have no choice but to rent privately, standard one-year, or even just six-month tenancies don't provide the security they need to plan for the future.

David Cameron’s announcement yesterday offered no comfort and no solution for the many Londoners who would like to buy. The market is already providing homes for sale at £450,000. In fact that's only just under the average London house price of £493,000. And that’s the problem – £400,000-plus is simply not affordable for the majority of young families and individuals seeking to take their first step on the property ladder.

Shelter estimates that Londoners would need to be earning more than £75,000 a year to afford one of Cameron’s new 'starter homes'. Of course there are many hard-working families and young professionals in London doing well for themselves, and we need to provide quality housing which is affordable for them as well. Such is the extent of our housing crisis that it isn't easy even when you’re on that kind of money.

But our ambition for London shouldn't stop there. We also need to build more homes for the typical London first-time buyer – for average-income households, not just high earners. These would be genuinely affordable homes, with shared ownership and rent to buy as intermediate options, alongside new social housing for those that need it.

I grew up in a council home – until the point when my parents had saved enough to buy. I'd like that kind of opportunity to be available to young Londoners today. But the Tories' Housing Bill is going to hit affordable housing supply hard. I have no objection to Right to Buy, as long as we replace every home sold off with a like-for-like replacement. But that hasn't happened and it won’t happen under the Tories. Instead we’ll see the depletion of our already insufficient affordable housing supply – family homes sold off across London to fund discounts on Housing Association homes, with absolutely no guarantee of new replacement affordable homes being delivered in London. I’ve challenged Zac Goldsmith to prove he’s willing to put Londoners first, and join me in opposing this damaging bill. So far it doesn’t look likely.

My approach would be very different. I'll establish Homes for Londoners, a new in-house developer at City Hall, led by me, working with councils and private developers to lever in funding and get thousands of new affordable and market homes built on spare public land and brownfield. And, when I need, to I’ll stand up to developers on delivering affordable housing, ensuring that the London Plan is amended with a 50% target for affordable homes and measures to ensure that Londoners, not overseas investors, always get first dibs on the homes we build. That's what we need – real solutions to the housing crisis: homes for Londoners, not more gold bricks for investors.

Sadiq Khan is the Labour candidate for mayor of London.

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