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London plan faces tough challenges

In one of his first forays into the politically charged world of housing in the capital, London mayor Boris Johnson has presented a multimillion pound plan to deliver 3,000 affordable homes to kick-start his First Steps low-cost home ownership initiative.

Some 500 so-called ‘intermediate rent’ homes are planned, while 93m is to be used to revitalise five stalled developments. This could ultimately see up to 7,500 new homes built.

First Steps promotes a range of products that are intended to help more Londoners own property, offering flexible alternatives to expensive open market options. The scheme is open to households earning less than 72,000 per year.

Of course, nobody can criticise the good intention of building more houses. One of the reasons properties are so expensive is the imbalance between supply and demand so while achieving Johnson’s ambitious targets may be difficult, the sentiment is worthy of support.

But with his enthusiasm for affordable housing, Johnson is making the mistake of many politicians before him – promising affordable housing makes good headlines but delivering it is another matter.

Few affordable housing schemes have been successful. High costs, the level of administration needed and complicated distribution arrangements mean that they have been characterised by poor levels of take-up and high default rates.

Overcoming these problems is likely to be a tough challenge for the mayor.

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