TfL have built just 15% of the 10,000 affordable homes they pledged

21 August 2020, 08:52 | Updated: 21 August 2020, 09:52

Transport for London said that on top of the 1,500 homes they've started, they have applications for 4,500 under consideration, and 4,500 to be submitted in due course
Transport for London said that on top of the 1,500 homes they've started, they have applications for 4,500 under consideration, and 4,500 to be submitted in due course. Picture: PA
Matthew Thompson

By Matthew Thompson

Transport for London has only built a fraction of the affordable homes it pledged to build in 2016 and now the body is blaming coronavirus.

In 2016, after Sadiq Khan's election as mayor, Transport for London pledged to build 10,000 affordable homes on its land by 2020, to help Mr Khan deliver on his manifesto.

But LBC has discovered that in 4 years, fewer than 1,500 such homes have been started. And yet, TfL now says that its failure to meet the target is due to coronavirus.

At the end of last month, TFL wrote to the London Assembly Housing Committee to explain why the target would not be met. They blamed a “safe stop” imposed on their construction sites in March due to the pandemic, and delays to the planning process caused by lockdown.

But in 4 years, they had reached just 15% of their target. It rather stretches credulity to imagine the only reason they weren’t going to hit it in a matter of months from now was due to lockdown.

At least part of the problem is that many of the proposed developments are wildly unpopular with residents, and several have been rejected by local council planners.

Residents told us of two main complaints. The first, is that several of the proposed developments comprise small 1 and 2 bed flats, in areas where there is a desperate need for family homes. Gordon Massey, from the Barnet Residents Association, illustrates this point perfectly.

“In the last 10 years Barnet has built 1 and 2 bedroom flats almost exclusively”, he told LBC. “The actual figure is 78% of all new construction, yet we know there is enormous demand for family homes, and they are just not being built. And of course, the TfL schemes will just up the percentage from 78% to even higher. We find that lots of families are simply leaving London because they are desperate for a house."

Good examples of such developments are the tiny one-bed flats proposed by the company Pocket Living, one of which is in Barnet, and another of which has just been rejected for the second time by Labour-controlled Brent Council.

Brent’s Planning Committee even concluded that the proposals were in breach of Section 3.11 of Sadiq Khan’s own London Plan, which specifically states “Priority should be accorded to provision of affordable family housing.”

Secondly, a number of the proposed TfL sites are on major commuter car parks, which are vital for residents. One prime example is at Stanmore station in Harrow, a car park of 146 spaces, which as well as providing daily commuter parking, is also used by fans on the way to Wembley Stadium. Residents fear chaos, particularly on match days, if the car park is demolished.

The Conservatives have laid the blame at Sadiq Khan's door. Their housing spokesman Andrew Boff said:

“Failing on this target so disastrously is not just an administrative failure. It represents Khan’s inability to deliver the kind of homes that Londoners are desperately crying out for. They want solutions. They want homes built. What they don’t want is Khan’s unconvincing excuses.”

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: “The Mayor is doing more than ever before to tackle the capital’s housing crisis. Last year the Mayor started more than 17,000 new genuinely affordable homes in London – the most since GLA records began in 2003, and exceeding the target agreed with the Government. In fact more new council homes were started than any year since 1983.

“Despite the progress made in London, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on everything our city, including substantially delaying the construction of new homes in recent months.

“The Mayor will continue to do everything in his powers to build the genuinely affordable homes Londoners need, unlike the Government whose reckless planning reforms will lead to more small, poor-quality, expensive homes – out of reach of the vast majority of Londoners.”

Transport for London said that on top of the 1,500 homes they've started, they have applications for 4,500 under consideration, and 4,500 to be submitted in due course.

Graeme Craig, Director of Commercial Development at TfL said, “The coronavirus pandemic had a major impact on house building across London, and the resulting delays to construction and extended consultations have meant that we will not reach our target.

“We still remain fully committed to delivering our housing programme as soon as possible, and will be working with everyone to make sure that we can build the homes our city needs in a safe, responsible and transparent way.”

TfL also rejected the claims they're not building the right housing, and say that by building on car parks they will encourage a switch to more sustainable forms of transport.