Tony Devenish is the London Assembly member for London West Central.
After 17 years as a local councillor, I have learnt there is still a foolproof way to tell if a council officer, housing association professional, or anyone from the wider ‘housing industry’ is sympathetic to the Labour Party, or possibly (it does happen) even a closet Tory: bring up the right to buy. Your secret socialist will be unmasked in seconds. They turn white with self-indignation or red with fury and spit out a version of “Thatcher bribed the working class” – or wail arrogantly that the Conservatives “pepper potted social housing with Tories housed next to those who really need to be looked after by us”.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London – a man who has failed to build much affordable housing in almost eight years – is resorting to throwing taxpayers money to buy back homes (at a huge cost) which were sold during the 1980s and 1990s. Khan arrogantly calls these homes “our housing”. What the current Mayor and every tin-pot public sector nomenklatura keeps quiet about is the huge quantities of land owned by the state. Transport for London alone, an organisation chaired by one Khan, owns 5,700 acres of London land – the equivalent of 16 times the size of Hyde Park or approximately the same size as the London Borough of Camden.
If you ask TfL about their land, you will be told they have “plans to build it out themselves” but in seven and a half years since Khan came to power, of the 116,000 homes they claim have been started, only half have actually been finished. The rest are, at best, still building sites, which is hardly of any use to Londoners. No one can live in “a start” (often just a hoarding round a piece of land with the Mayoral logos smugly proclaiming the latest cliched Orwellian slogan). The public sector right across the UK – in addition to owning vast tracts of brownfield land – also owns a great many offices, shops, and every conceivable type of building.
In 2016, Khan set a target of building 10,000 homes on TfL land by 2020. Yet, as of March 2023, fewer than 3,800 homes had been started and just 816 had been completed. Overall, in the first six years of Khan’s mayoralty, just 13,586 homes were completed on the vast landholdings of the Mayor and his functional bodies, an average of 2,300 per year. No homes at all were started or completed on land owned by the Mayor’s Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, supposed to be one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe. Khan has failed to progress the work of the London Land Commission, set up by his predecessor, which identified the possibility of up to 130,000 homes on public sector land in London.
Meanwhile, Khan has been granted almost £9 billion from the Government since 2016, to build 151,000 affordable homes, of which less than 40 per cent have actually been completed. This includes £4 billion for the 2021-26 Affordable Homes Programme, for which no homes have even been started.
Property consultants will happily set up masterplans and consult on feasibility studies on these (often huge) pieces of land for a decade or more before even thinking of actually building something. All the while the taxpayer pays them. So why, at a time when the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is getting around to selling off Nat West Bank; in the spirit of “Tell Sid” share ownership, can’t some of these huge public sector land holdings be sold to 30-something members of Generation Rent? Countries like Saudi Arabia give every adult a plot of land on which to build a home. In the UK roughly half the cost of a home is the cost of the land.
In Rishi Sunak we have the perfect Prime Minister to achieve this since, as a former Chancellor, he is well-placed to stop the blockage in Number 11 Downing Street and ignore Treasury dogma that insists on a narrow interpretation of “best value” when a public sector asset is sold. When Mrs Thatcher stood up to this narrow interpretation, the Labour 1970s were swept away, replaced by a Conservative decade led by privatisations. We also have in Lee Rowley, one of the finest young minds in our Party and the perfect Housing Minister to pursue these reforms. Declaration of interest, before he became an MP he served with me on Westminster City Council.
On May 2nd, London has the chance to replace Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London with my London Assembly colleague, Susan Hall. Susan absolutely gets the need to build the homes London needs and I am sure that, as Mayor, that is exactly what she would do.
It is often said, no-one will be a capitalist without capital. Well, unless we get on and give this land away to younger people who have seen their living standards slow down at best, the current opinion polls may well see Keir Starmer elected Prime Minister. Starmer is the last person in the UK capable of solving any problem, especially the housing crisis. As one voter told me on a doorstep recently, Starmer will solve the housing crisis because young Londoners will emigrate rather than live in a modern 1974!
Public sector land-banking is a major cause of a failure to build homes, and especially the slow death of smaller building companies since Labour crashed the economy. It’s easier to blame planning and a whole host of usual complaints. Indeed Khan recently had the nerve to blame the fact that the average age of a builder in the UK is his and my age, over fifty. When these builders retire, the housing shortages will literally get worse over the next decade unless something drastic is done.
We Conservatives urgently need to appeal to voters under 45 who across the country and especially in London are trapped renting or even still living with mum and dad. What better way to show we are on their side and enrage our opponents than to sell off “the family silver” – the publicly owned land – to individuals now and not to a house builder to build homes in 30 years time?
Click this link for the original source of this article.
Author: Tony Devenish
This content is courtesy of, and owned and copyrighted by, http://www.conservativehome.com and its author. This content is made available by use of the public RSS feed offered by the host site and is used for educational purposes only. If you are the author or represent the host site and would like this content removed now and in the future, please contact USSANews.com using the email address in the Contact page found in the website menu.