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PH Opinion

PH Opinion


Views and comment from Westminster

Campbell Robb: Mayoral candidates miserably failing on housing

Writing exclusively for PoliticsHome, the head of housing charity Shelter, Campbell Robb, says the main mayoral candidates appear 'desperate to talk about absolutely anything except the critical state of London's housing'.

London, apparently, is a city made up entirely of commuters, tax consultants, or victims of crime –none of whom live in homes.

At least, this is the impression you’d get from the main candidates in London’s Mayoral election, who seem desperate to talk about absolutely anything except the critical state of London’s housing. On last week’s Newsnight debate, Boris and Ken argued about their personal tax affairs for almost five minutes – more than a tenth of the debate – but homes only got a brief mention of less than sixty seconds. And in last night’s Evening Standard event, the subject was relegated to throwaway asides in an otherwise fiery hustings, with Ken admitting that there had "been no discussion on housing". The only real debate was crammed into the closing speeches, in response to heckles that the subject hadn’t yet been addressed.

What makes it so odd that housing seems to be so far off the candidates’ agendas is the fact that it’s such a key issue for voters: over a third (33%) of Londoners say that the cost of housing is a major problem affecting their quality of life - more so than crime, congestion, the general cost of living or unemployment.

This is hardly surprising since the sky-high cost of buying or renting a home in the capital is such common knowledge, with a recent poll finding that 1.8 million people expect to have to leave London because of it. Over the last few weeks Shelter has spoken to hundreds of Londoners who’ve described to us how the cost of housing is weighing them down; holding them back. If this is true for them, it’s true for the city as a whole.

If the candidates do have any kind of vision for housing, they are miserably failing to communicate it. And if the way the public feel about the playground nature of Prime Minister’s Questions is anything to go by, the candidates need to think seriously about how turned off Londoners are by the tit for tat that’s going on now.

Londoners deserve to hear more about what the winner of this Mayoral race will do to tackle the real issues that affect their lives. They need to know that when it comes to housing, the next Mayor has no excuses. The Localism Act has devolved huge powers over London’s housing, including the entire affordable homes budget, and the land to build on.

Shelter’s Homes for London campaign challenges the next Mayor to use these powers decisively. This should be a positive story for candidates to tell, once they’ve stopped insulting each other on the airwaves or in lifts.

Whatever the reasons, neither of the main candidates have so far offered a compelling response to the problem that Londoners consistently put at the top of the priority list: the appalling shortage, cost and condition of London’s homes.

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