Sunak threat to intervene on housebuilding in London sparks row with mayor Khan

  • Rishi Sunak told reporter Sam Holder that the government was stepping in with more funding

Rishi Sunak has sparked a row with the Mayor of London, accusing him of failing to build enough homes and threatening to intervene if delivery is not increased. Sadiq Khan described the criticism as “desperate nonsense” and said his tenure as mayor has seen the most homes built since the 1930s. Earlier this week, Mr Sunak hit out at “top-down targets” for housebuilding, but in recent days his Government has also set out a range of reforms and proposals intended to boost the number of new homes being built in England. Number 10 announced it will launch a review of the multi-decade London plan, which is intended to guide the development of the city over the next 20-25 years.

"The most important thing that we can do is to build more homes for people to buy to make it more affordable for them," the Prime Minister told ITV News London.

"That’s why the development I’m standing in today is so important. It is an example of what we are trying to do.

"We are investing an extra £200 million today in brownfield sites like this one that I’m standing in.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with new home owners Victoria and Ryan Adair, during a visit to Hayes Village by Barratt Homes

"And that’s the best way particularly in cities like London to provide more homes for young people.

"We’ve seen it work really well in the West Midlands - I was there earlier in the week. But that is not happening in London under the mayor’s control where only around half of the homes he himself has said he needs to build are being built. "But that’s why the government is stepping in with more funding directly to unlock fantastic developments like this on brownfield land and that’s what I want to do more of," Mr Sunak added.

The Government said it would look at the prioritisation of sites chosen for housebuilding in London, with the aim of putting more focus on central sites close to Tube stations.

Michael Gove will work with the Labour mayor to accelerate residential development on inner city brownfield sites, the Government said, with the Housing Secretary reserving the right to directly intervene if progress has not been made by the autumn.

Downing Street also announced an additional £200 million for development of brownfield areas in the capital, of which £150 million will go directly to boroughs, bypassing the mayor’s office.

As part of a set of measures announced on Thursday, rules on how £1 billion already allocated for affordable housing in London will be relaxed to support the regeneration of older social housing estates.

Housing is seen as an issue likely to resonate on the doorsteps come a general election, expected next year.

It is also a topic that has provoked concern from Conservative backbenches in the past, with the Prime Minister this week seeking to assure Tory MPs that his plan was not about “uncontrolled development”.

In May Sadiq Khan hailed his record on housing delivery, as he pointed to progress in surpassing the target of starting 116,000 affordable homes in London between 2015 and 2023.

The Labour mayor said that under his leadership more homes had been completed in the capital than at any time since the 1930s.

Responding on Twitter, Mr Khan said:

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: "These disappointing and disingenuous claims appear to show a fundamental lack of understanding of housebuilding in London.

"The Mayor delivered record numbers of affordable homes over the last six years, consistently exceeding Government targets despite the impact of the pandemic and Brexit. This has included starting more council homes than at any time since the 1970s.

"The Mayor’s London Plan was approved by the Government in 2021 and the ministers should know that the housing figures included within it are reliant on sufficient government investment being made in infrastructure, particularly transport."

The Prime Minister has also rejected Mr Khan’s call to give his office the powers to introduce a system of rent controls.

Speaking to ITV News London, Mr Sunak said: “Wherever they have been used rent controls don’t work… they just reduce the supply of new housing and reduce the quality of it as well. That is not the right answer to this question.”

Last month, Labour’s shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy rejected the idea of rent controls.

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