By Angela Lovely
London assembly member Darren Johnson says the Mayor of London is actively encouraging overseas investors to buy up homes in London. In a report published this week he says the Mayor’s policies are doing little for ordinary Londoners but everything to feed a “developers feast”. That’s stating the obvious for people in Fitzrovia.
The Green Party assembly member argues that the Mayor is supporting anything that gets homes built. But the trouble with Boris Johnson’s approach is that it is encouraging the building of luxury homes that no ordinary Londoner can afford and the Mayor is not even tracking the sales prices of the all the new homes getting built in London’s “opportunity areas”. To make matters worse, not enough social housing is being built on the back of these luxury developments.
Darren Johnson cites a number of examples of housing developments elsewhere in London, but he could also have included the Fitzroy Place development, the largest building development in the heart of Fitzrovia. Less than 18 percent of the homes built on the site will be classed as affordable, and only around 10 percent of all the flats will be socially-rented, thanks to Westminster City Council’s planning committee who unbelievably took at face value the developers pleas that any more affordable housing would make the development uneconomic. Fitzroy Place was heavily marketed by the owners Exemplar to overseas investors, as we previously reported. No wonder the men from Exemplar are always smiling.
Then there’s Derwent London’s Saatchi Block redevelopment which was denied planning permission by Camden Council because of a lack of affordable homes, only to be overturned by Boris Johnson who said 16 affordable homes on Derwent’s largest development site was enough. Then there’s the cronyism.
And the sorriest story of greed on a grand scale: the former hospital workers accommodation at Cleveland Residences were marketed to overseas investors even before the tenants were asked to leave by property developer the Marcus Cooper Group who acquired the flats from UCLH Charity. These weren’t new build flats, just a row of rather modest 100-year-old homes where ordinary people lived which were gutted, then pimped up by their new owner and flogged for around £1,500 per square foot. Nevermind the property developer, the hospital workers’ own hospital charity precipitated this scandal.
Darren Johnson points out that it should be remembered what ordinary Londoners can actually afford.
Using the definitions normally used by the Government and Mayor, we can say that to be affordable for the average household, house prices shouldn’t be higher than £140,000 for a single earner and £170,000 for a couple. Rents for somebody on the minimum wage shouldn’t be higher than £73 per week, or £147 per week for a couple.
Clearly ordinary Londoners are not being served by the Mayor’s current policies and Darren Johnson says we need a radical change that will deliver homes that ordinary people can actually afford to live in. And the Mayor of London has the power to deliver, if he chooses to.
Johnson says “the Mayor of London is in a unique position to advocate bold changes to housing policy. He has recently argued that stamp duty revenue in London should be devolved to City Hall, giving him a large budget for affordable housing.”
But the Mayor could go further says Darren Johnson. He could call for a housing policy that taxes overseas investors; give councils, housing associations and co-operatives the money to build affordable homes; and bring in rent controls and extra security of tenure for private tenants.