Don't let Boris Johnson distract you from his awful record on housing — here's what he doesn't want you to know

If the Mayor really cared about the housing crisis then he wouldn't have helped create it

Boris Johnson’s sing along with a Save Our Soho activist this week hasn’t exactly been a number one hit, but it’s once again fed the Mayor’s insatiable appetite for publicity.

Singing along outside the now closed Madame JoJo's, the Mayor promised his crowd he would rally against a “pasteurised, sanitised, homogenised” London, but this is exactly what his seven years as Mayor have led to – a London where the super-rich are welcomed with open arms, but low-income Londoners are pushed out to the suburbs and beyond.

Although this shouldn’t really be a surprise, given that Boris recently claimed that the greatest thing about the capital is that “we have now in London 72 billionaires” living here.

Under Boris it has been open season on London’s property market. The Mayor has given developers free reign. London now boasts a housing market delivering huge numbers of homes priced well beyond the reach of the people who live here. Many of these homes represent little more than "safe deposit boxes" for the international super-rich, who are eager to find a reliable place to store their money in a time of economic instability, political upheaval and rocketing London house prices.

Savills recently estimated that £7bn of overseas money was spent on high-end housing in the capital last year – that’s more than 14 times London’s annual affordable housing budget of £483m.

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Boris Johnson with The Voice contestant Tim Arnold. The pair were out in London as part of the Save Soho campaign.

Half of all prime central London sales are now to overseas buyers, with many left empty, never providing a home for a Londoner. In adverts for some prime locations developers now openly boast that their properties include “no social housing”.

The result of this is a fundamental altering of London's traditionally mixed communities. This is the real cost of Boris’ laissez faire housing strategy – an approach which has seen planning rules bent and broken to "attract investment" and some of London’s iconic sites (think Earls Court, Mount Pleasant, Bishopsgate) sold off to the highest bidder with little consideration of London’s needs.

 

Developers have responded to the combination of overseas demand and Boris’ "anything goes" attitude by building more homes aimed at this market. The incentives are stark and were highlighted last week when one property consultancy found that in London 54,000 homes with an expected price tag of over £1m each are now in the pipeline.

On the face of it we have the promise from our Soho singing Mayor that he wants to protect London from developers. In reality, what we’ve seen is Boris throwing open London’s doors and inviting the world to carve it up – for a price – regardless of the impact on the people who live here.

It’s not that development is bad, it’s that it has to work for Londoners on low- and middle-incomes, not just profit margins. This means fewer million pound plus luxury pads and more developments which deliver the affordable and social homes which the capital is crying out for.

Without a dramatic change in focus Londoners will conclude that far from being a Mayor dedicated to fighting against a “pasteurised, sanitised, homogenised” London, Boris Johnson is a Mayor whose time in office has been, ultimately, leading the charge.

Tom Copley is a Labour Londonwide Assembly member, and Labour’s London Assembly Housing spokesperson.

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