Thursday, March 13, 2014
Meanwhile, the Bedroom Tax is forcing some unemployed social housing tenants into private housing since there are no one-bedroom flats available for those single occupants currently living in two-bedroom homes whose housing benefit has been cut. If they can find a landlord who will take DHS claimants, the private rent is likely to be at least twice as much (£250pw) as their council rent (£110pw), a bill which the council tax-payer and local authority will foot and from which private landlords will profit. Continuing low rates on buy-to-let mortgages has landlords increasing their property portfolios and enjoying record yields on higher rents, and profits from rising house prices.
Add to this the total lack of affordable housing being built, whilst Boris Johnson boasts about meeting housing targets. The Financial Times reports that Bozo promised 55,000 new homes between 2011 and 2015 but only 20,684 are being built. The London Assembly reports that he's recently opted to 'clear London's backlog of housing need' over 20 years – instead of the 10 years he initially proposed.
In the news today, we hear that nine London boroughs have joined forces in a legal challenge against the Mayor's plan to relax 'affordable rents' rules, to be heard in the High Court today and tomorrow. Presently, boroughs have been able to cap social housing rents within new developments (what little there is) to around 40% of 'market rent'. Bozo wants to raise that cap to 80%. That is the percentage that has defined 'affordable housing' for a while now, and for most Londoners, this is still unaffordable. Lewisham set its cap at 50%. Lewisham is not one of the boroughs taking Boris to court. When Lewisham sells off its housing stock next year to a reconfigured Lewisham Homes Housing Association, new tenants may well find themselves paying 80% of market rent.
Speaking from a developer's conference in Cannes yesterday, Bozo announced that he'll be selling up the last couple of development sites owned by City Hall, with only a third available for affordable rented housing. And he wants to launch a 'state-backed housing bank' that would offer cheap loans and guarantees to private developers to get homes built more quickly and reduce the risks for his builder mates.
The news today from the same Cannes property conference is that Bozo's team want to allow house bulding to go ahead without planning permission in certain parts of London. Deputy mayor for housing, Richard Blakeway, said the mayor was "particularly interested" in exploring the potential to "build markets" in certain zones by offering tax incentives to both "investors and consumers". The Mayor could use his compulsory purchase powers to acquire land for private residential use, at the expense of any borough's strategies to achieve a balance of uses (such as employment zones and community uses). These changes to the London Plan are said to be designed "to encourage boroughs to support private rented housing".
The London Assembly has also recently questioned the Mayor about his stripping of London boroughs' right to make planning decisions by using his power to 'call-in' large planning applications. He has already 'called-in' five schemes in the past year. In many cases, Bozo has been 'calling-in' applications before the local authority in question has even had a chance to examine them. (See also the Deptford Dame's latest post).
Darren Johnson, Green Party Assembly member, said, "The recent acceleration in the number and speed with which the Mayor is taking over planning decisions from boroughs...puts developers and investors before local democracy". The Assembly's motion (agreed by 16 votes to 5 against) listed 11 applications – including Convoys Wharf in Deptford – and said that on many decisions, the Mayor has ignored legitimate borough concerns about issues such as inappropriate density and very low targets for affordable housing.
This isn't new. In 2009 in Tower Hamlets, when there were 23,000 people on the housing waiting list, the council refused planning consent for the 74-storey Hertsmere Tower in Canary Wharf because it didn't include enough provision for affordable housing. But a few months later, Boris Johnson overturned the council's decision and Hertsmere is set to accommodate over 700 luxury apartments, some marketed in excess of £10m each.
Here's Boris at the Cannes property conference in 2012, announcing his new 'architecture, design and urbanism' panel for architects, which was to hand out £30m worth of work over the following three years. There's Terry Farrell, second from left, one of those appointed to the panel and the architect employed by Convoys Wharf developer Hutchison Whampoa.
As any fool can see, there has been an enormous amount of new housing being built in London, especially locally. Like many of these new developments, Convoys Wharf has a minimal amount of affordable housing (down from 35% to 14%, and social housing from 4% to zilch). As the Deptford Dame pointed out back in November, another site owned by Hutchison Whampoa – Lots Road in Chelsea – is already being marketed via their Hong Kong estate agency. (See also the BBC film "London's Property Gamble").
Darren Johnson says, "London's property market is only serving the super-rich, leaving crumbs for ordinary Londoners, who have to rent overpriced homes on insecure tenancies or move out of the city altogether". A new industry has even built up around helping developers avoid building affordable housing and paying Section 106 to local authorities (the bribe – or money paid by a developer that is supposed to benefit the communities in which the development is sited). (Click to enlarge).
The Evening Standard reported yesterday that the number of skyscrapers in the capital is set to double. Meanwhile, Chinese investment in the UK is forecast to triple this year. Boris is busy signing up business deals with Chinese investment consortiums wanting to turn London into a replica of Hong Kong – with a focus on construction projects of all kinds. Meanwhile, Hutchison Whampoa has been busy selling off its luxury properties in Hong Kong since the Chinese state are bringing in 'cooling measures' – described as 'a tough stance on reining in an overheated market' (in other words a 'bubble') – with new rules on the sale of new homes, and stricter rent controls – the opposite of here, in fact.
Boris Johnson's London is a playground for millionaires. Of course Bozo doesn't want to take over Cameron's job. While Cameron has only a year left to decimate the lives of millions of ordinary people across the country with austerity measures whilst rewarding bankers, Bozo has over two more years to promote and implement their hideous Tory agenda across the capital.