Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate for London mayor, is facing criticism after suggesting families living in temporary accommodation in the capital should be able to save up for a deposit to buy a share in newly built affordable housing.
If elected mayor in London’s upcoming vote in May, Mr Bailey has vowed use his proposed £4bn housing budget to see 100,000 affordable homes built in the capital.
Much of the housing the candidate wants to see built would be for shared ownership, allowing buyers to purchase a share for around £100,000 or more.
Pressed in an interview with Inside Housing on how his plan would help the 62,670 households living in temporary accommodation, the Conservative candidate suggested that shared ownership was a solution.
“You can get involved in this for around £24,000/£25,000 as a household income," he said. "That’s less than the London average.”
Asked whether he thought having to pay a £5,000 minimum deposit might be a barrier for many households unable to access stable accommodation, Mr Bailey appeared to dismiss the concern.
“I don’t think the £5,000 deposit will [be a problem]," he said, according to the outlet. "The mortgage application bit might be a bit tougher,” he conceded, however.
Asked how a family in temporary accommodation would be able to put up a mortgage deposit, Mr Bailey said: “They could save for it”.
Mr Bailey argued that social housing was not the only solution to address London’s housing situation, with the Conservative candidate asserting that many Londoners will not qualify anyway.
“Let’s be clear, I will continue to build social housing,” he said. “I was born in social housing, I know the value of it and I will continue to build that as well. This isn’t instead of, this is as well as.”
However, he asserted: “The point is housing in London should be for the broadest set of people."
“Lots of people work and that takes them away from social housing,” Mr Bailey said. “When I was younger the only way to get housing was to be destitute, and I knew young people who would either lie about their destitution or just allow themselves to become destitute and that has social implications.”
“You don’t have to earn very much for it to become an issue for you that you earn too much for social housing," he expanded.
The Conservative candidate further argued that Londoners should be able to feel that they have a “stake in our society”.
“How many Londoners have no stake in our society because they have no equity in London?” he says. “I desperately want to turn that around. I come from a very poor community. We had lots of violence, lots of graffiti, lots of rubbish on our estate; the minute we felt we owned the estate we turned that round because we thought we had a stake in it.”
Critics, however, have argued that Mr Bailey has missed the point that the reason many do not have equity in London is because they cannot afford to do so.
In a tweet, David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, condemned Mr Bailey’s comments, branding them “completely bonkers”.
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) January 14, 2021
Journalist Dawn Foster also expressed bewilderment at the plan, calling Mr Bailey a “magical clown” for making the claim.
"I don't even know where to begin," Labour Co-op MP for Ealing North James Murray wrote.
In a statement sent to The Independent, a spokesperson for Mr Bailey’s campaign defended the comments, asserting that “as Shaun made clear in his interview, he will provide social housing for those who are in temporary accommodation".
“But the point he also made was that his Shared Ownership scheme will be open to all — including those in temporary accommodation,” the spokesperson said.
“As someone who went through homelessness, Shaun knows better than most journalists what life is like for people struggling to make ends meet,” they added.
The controversy comes after a recent incident in which the Conservative candidate faced widespread criticism after his campaign sent out flyers made to look like official warnings from London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office of a Council Tax rise.
While London’s mayor had warned that he was considering a Council Tax rise to cover TfL funding gaps left unplugged by the British government and later announced that a rise would be likely, Mr Bailey’s campaign was accused of trying to create panic among Londoners during an already difficult time in the midst of the pandemic.
The Conservative candidate’s campaign team defended its actions, however, claiming that it was only providing Londoners with the facts.
This article has been updated with a statement from Shaun Bailey’s campaign team.