Snipe - The Scoop

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Boris Johnson: Ghetto King or a Gerrymanderer?

Boris Johnson's housing advisor today said that he had reduced the target for social housing in London, in order to prevent 'polarised' developments where the rich live beside the poor.

Speaking to the London Assembly today, Richard Blakeway said:

"I often think that if we look very crudely at the (previous) 50 per cent (affordable housing) target in a sense that produced polarised communities because what you have potentially is that you have some very rich people living in expensive units which then subsidise on the same development very poor, obviously poor people, because they live in social housing. That isn't a mixed community. That's very much a polarised community."

Blakeway's comments follow those of Boris himself, who last month stated that he wanted to avoid creating a 'ghetto' of social housing in the new Olympic village.

Speaking in response to a question by Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Dee Doocey, Boris said

"I think we have got to bear in mind, Dee, that we want this to be an attractive place for people to come and live and work from across the UK, from across London. This is going to be a really fantastic location. It would be a mistake, I think, to create a ghetto feeling there by creating a proportion of affordable housing that made people feel that it was not going to be a mixed community or an attractive place for affluent families to come and live and work."

However, Boris's supposedly anti-ghetto policy came under fire today, when it was pointed out that the vast majority of new affordable housing will be delivered within non-Tory boroughs.

In recent weeks Boris has been accused of  'gerrymandering' the London vote, by restricting the majority of affordable housing to Labour boroughs.

The process famously exploited by Shirley Porter in the 1980s, encourages Labour voters to live in areas which are already Labour strongholds, thereby reducing their voting impact in more marginal wards.

Blakeway today insisted that this was not Boris's intention and that the targets set for individual boroughs were based entirely on individual needs.

No conditions

However, although Boris insists that 60 per cent of all new affordable housing will in fact be 'social' Blakeway today admitted that this target had not been a condition of any negotiations so far.

He also refused, much to the frustration of Conservative Assembly Members, to be drawn on what would happen to those boroughs that failed to meet these (non-binding) targets.

Of course these targets, although lower than those set by Ken Livingstone, will if achieved, actually go beyond those managed by the previous mayor.

However, with no indication of just how they will be met, and with every indication that boroughs will be given an easier ride by the new Mayor, even these reduced ambitions now look unrealistically high.

11 comments:

Helen said...

"...where the rich live beside the poor" - you mean Islington?

The Troll said...

Yeah that's the place. You know where 'everyone' has been burgled.

Anonymous said...

Whatever Blakeways says this is clearly gerrymandering on the part of Boris. The aim is to secure Conservative dominance of London for the next decade and the means is behind the smokescreen of affordable housing. I think we will find that even the low affordable targets given to Conservative boroughs will not be met and it will all be blamed on the credit crunch.

Anonymous said...

May I point out that the Mayoral election is essentially proportional representation and therefore a greater collection of Labour voters in Labour boroughs/less in Tory boroughs will have no effect on the Mayoral vote whatsoever.

The Troll said...

Yes, but it does have an effect on the results of the general election, council elections and London Assembly constituency elections.

Tom said...

"Blakeway today insisted that this was not Boris's intention and that the targets set for individual boroughs were based entirely on individual needs."

Look at the LBHF housing waiting list and try and convince me Blakeway isn't telling a direct lie here. Unless he's defining 'need' as in 'the need of Conservative councils to be re-elected' rather than 'the need of individual Londoners'. LBHF has a large waiting list and is seeking to reduce the amount of social rented housing in the borough, by not building any and selling off what they have.

"May I point out that the Mayoral election is essentially proportional representation and therefore a greater collection of Labour voters in Labour boroughs/less in Tory boroughs will have no effect on the Mayoral vote whatsoever."

May I point out that part of Boris's plan is to transfer powers from the GLA/TfL to the boroughs, which is from a proportional system to a first-past-the-post system. This puts party interest above democratic accountability, of course, but that's not really a surprise.

Jim said...

Labour boroughs have (*on average*) higher affordable housing targets because they tend to have the higher identified housing capacity. The distribution is almost identical to what it would be if every borough met its London Plan housing target and 50% was affordable - which was Ken's policy. Remind me, how is that gerrymandering against Labour boroughs again? There are good arguments to be made against Boris's affordable housing policy (like your points on what happens if boroughs don't agree or don't meet targets), but this isn't one of them.

The Troll said...

The 'gerrymandering' accusation has been made recently by among others Andrew Slaughter on the Politics Show, so I thought it was worth mentioning. I would have to see more of the figures myself to judge either way, but the average annual target set by City Hall is now as follows:

Conservative boroughs: 371.8
Labour boroughs: 865.4
Lib Dem boroughs: 435.4

(source)

The average is 526.4 so you can see where the suspicion originates. I would be genuinely interested to see your own figures (with links) and interpretation of this.

The Troll said...

Sorry Tom your post got held up in spam. The new blogger comment form is giving me hassle.

@Jim also see @Tom

Tom said...

Jim - you're forgetting the 'Labour' boroughs that went Conservative in 2006. This didn't magically change the housing capacity overnight, nor did people didn't immediately think 'good-oh, the Tories are in, I must immediately be sufficiently far out of poverty not to need a council house any more'.

The ones to watch, therefore, are areas with high identified housing capacity that don't pull their weight for political reasons, because the people in charge want to discourage poorer residents from moving in, because they do unwelcome things like consume services and vote Labour. Since they have to live *somewhere*, this is, of course, gerrymandering in the Porter tradition, and the dirty underside of Boris's Back To The Boroughs rhetoric is that he won't step in to stop it.

Alex said...

Well, of course - the whole team is stuffed with unindicted co-conspirators of hers! I mean, you don't expect their behaviour to change after they got away with it...