City of London’s Neo-Liberal Politics Puts Londoners’ Housing Needs Last

The Evening Standard reported earlier this week that the City of London has abandoned its social housing building targets:

An ambitious target to build 3,700 new council homes by 2025 has been scrapped, in a blow to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s pledge to tackle the capital’s housing crisis.

The City of London Corporation announced the plan in 2015 but has now quietly abandoned any hope of hitting the deadline, following a series of setbacks, delays and mounting costs.

Only 62 homes were completed in the first three years and the Square Mile’s local authority has now admitted that just 900 properties — less than a quarter of the number promised — are likely to be finished by 2025.

The decision, which was slipped out in corporation documents over the summer, will be unwelcome news at City Hall….

The City of London Corporation’s house-building programme was billed as its biggest since the construction of the Barbican complex. It secured a £14.6 million grant from the Mayor’s housing investment scheme.

Announcing the plans in 2015, the corporation’s then policy chairman Mark Boleat said: “Without truly affordable housing, we will no longer be able to maintain the diversity of London’s communities, which is an integral part of London’s success as a global city.” But in a fresh report, Simon Cribbens, of the authority’s community and children’s services department, says: “The complexity, and subsequent timeline, of bringing some significant sites forward for development is such that this target will not be completed within the time scale set.”

The corporation said its budget for building new homes had come under pressure after an audit into the condition of its housing stock and the need to retro-fit fire safety measures in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Some of the new homes — a mix of council rent and affordable properties — were to be built alongside flats and houses within the City’s estates in Islington, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth.

However, the corporation said “the greatest potential for delivery” was at its historic markets, Billingsgate, Smithfield and New Spitalfields. There are plans to consolidate all three markets on a single 100-acre site, but such a major move requires consultation and parliamentary approval. The report stated: “The timeline and complexity of these elements means the sites may not be available for redevelopment for up to 10 years.”

… A corporation spokeswoman said: “We are developing a range of policies to ensure we deliver 3,700 extra homes much needed by Londoners as soon as possible.”

City axes target for 3,700 council homes in blow to Mayor’s action plan by Sophia Sleigh, Evening Standard, 24 September 2018.

Those familiar with the City of London council will not be surprised by this news, and are unlikely to take at all seriously the claim: “The corporation said its budget for building new homes had come under pressure…” The modest size of this ‘pressured’ budget is a political decision; the Corporation could cease spending the millions in interest generated by its City’s Cash sovereign wealth fund on lobbying for neo-liberal economic policies and instead use the money for house building. However this is unlikely to happen until there is democratic reform of the local authority and the council chamber ceases to be controlled by undemocratic business votes. And rather than choosing the cheapest tenders for repairs to its housing stock, the City of London prefers to take up the most expensive option offered by a firm headed by James Thomson, who sits as a councillor on this local authority. It made no difference that local residents told their councillors in Cripplegate they didn’t want Thomson’s firm doing the job because of the poor quality and overrunning of its refurbishment of Great Arthur House, a block of City of London council flats.

Keep Keepmoat Out Of The City – Say No To Walbrook Councillor & Keepmoat CEO James Thomson!

Likewise the quote from former council boss Mark Boleat is more than a little rich: “Without truly affordable housing, we will no longer be able to maintain the diversity of London’s communities, which is an integral part of London’s success as a global city.” Working at the Housing & Finance Institute which was set up with funding from the City of London council, Boleat has advocated policies that make housing in both London and the UK less rather than more affordable; he’s also floated a suggestion for the abolition of local democracy when it comes to planning laws. Basically Boleat is a lobbyist for property developers and so it is hardly surprising he puts their profits before people’s housing needs. And we haven’t forgotten that in May 2017 both Boleat and James Thomson voted in favour of granting Taylor Wimpey planning permission to build The Denizen in Golden Lane, a private development that will replace 110 social housing units for key workers with 99 luxury flats aimed at property investors. The Denizen will provide no on site social or affordable housing.

Pippa Henslowe.

The header shows the Golden Lane Estate Community Centre with Great Arthur House (the yellow building) behind it.

‘Sir’ Mark Boleat of the Housing & Finance Institute and a City of London Councillor.

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