What Michael Gove should learn from Sadiq Khan on housebuilding

Michael Gove, as the Secretary of State overseeing the Government’s repeated failures to deliver on housebuilding, should have used his recent speech to apologise to the rest of the country who he has repeatedly short-changed from the housing they need.However, even though we have seen a generation forget their dreams of homeownership, he didn’t say sorry. He used his platform to attack Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and our housebuilding record here at City Hall.As the London Labour Group’s housing lead, I want to delve into Gove’s claims and separate fact from fiction.When it comes to delivering housing, the differences between London, where the Mayor delivers housing, and the rest of England, where it is a responsibility of the Levelling Up Secretary, are unbelievable.Sadiq Khan, under the landmark 2016-23 Affordable Homes Programme, has not just met but soared past affordable housing targets in London. More than 116,000 low-cost council and housing association homes have been built or are currently under construction in the capital. This is just the first step of the Affordable Housing Programme – more to come in the second wave of this programme, which goes until 2026.If Michael Gove had taken the time to look at his own Government’s data, he would’ve seen a jaw-dropping 21% higher rate of housebuilding in London compared to the rest of the country. London has increased its housing stock by 9.1% during the years 2016-2023, while outside of London, Ministers have only managed a rate of 7.5% – a 21% higher rate of additional homes in London than outside it.In fact, should the Conservative Government have kept pace with the Labour Mayor of London, they would have built 317,000 new homes across England since 2016. Their own housebuilding has been stymied by a lack of effort, a financial crisis of their own making, and a capitulation to NIMBYism across their whole party.This isn’t only about the difference in numbers between London and the rest of the UK. Each of those 317,000 houses that wasn’t built represents a gut-wrenching loss for those saving for their first home, struggling to find some somewhere they can afford in their area, or looking for a home with enough space to be able to have children. It represents a failed promise from the Government, who said they would build 300,000 homes a year but have never come close to meeting that target.Gove said that London demands too much affordable housing in our developments – saying this prevents anything being built at all. This could not be further from the truth. Tory Ministers have actively sabotaged essential housing developments – such as the rejection of 351 homes in Cockfosters and 443 homes in Lambeth, both offering 40% affordable housing. It seems like the Government is trying to stop those communities from seeing this investment and stop Londoners from being able to have affordable homes.It’s true that London demands more affordable housing per development than the rest of England. This means that the deal that developers get is that they get profits – often a fair lot of them – and London gets some affordable housing out of it. There’s even a process that developers can use if they cannot be profitable to reduce the number of affordable homes they include.Looking at the facts – Sadiq Khan’s housebuilding record, the Government’s failures and the ways that London delivers affordable housing – it’s clear that London is leading the way on housing. But Michael Gove isn’t interested in these facts, he’s only interested in protecting the reputation of his failing Government. His speech was desperate stuff, and his attack on Labour in London was embarrassing for him.In 2024, voters in London will have the opportunity to re-elect Sadiq Khan and to vote in a General Election. I will make sure that I am on the doorstep speaking to voters about their priorities for housing. It will be my priority to compare the record of Labour in office here in London with the fictions that have come from Michael Gove – so that voters know exactly the difference Labour in Government can make.

For more on housing see The Imperative of Stable Housing for Stronger Communities: A Call to Action