A few weeks ago we noted, with some surprise, the Mayor's growing reputation as the man who does nothing. In a spirit of impartiality, then, it's only fair to report that - just when most politicians are worrying about sun, sea and self-promotion - Boris has taken a few baby steps towards tackling the housing crisis.
Housing, you may recall, has been a preoccupation of the Mayor's opponents for some time. Before coming to power his big idea in this area was to free developers from the need to think about poor people. And it's not entirely clear that a man who considers a quarter of a million pounds to be ‘chicken feed’ really understands just how expensive a roof in this town was starting to become. In the last fortnight, though, he's put out two (count 'em) different statements aimed at making life easier for the less independently-wealthy householder.
The first is a survey showing that no one has the faintest bloody idea of how low-cost housing schemes work, and suggesting that we all go and find out. This, best we can tell, exists largely to remind us that the mayor has a more generous idea of who should qualify for the things than the government does (any household earning up to £75k, fact fans).
The second is more interesting. In a rather grumpy letter to communities minister John Healey, the Mayor accused the government’s £1.5 billion low cost homes plan of short changing London. For one thing, it's chucking money at schemes in the north east (waiting list: 300) faster than it is at London (waiting list: 48,000). For another, it's raided the city's housing maintenance budget to do it.
‘Simply spending money where it is quicker and cheaper to build homes is not 'delivery',’ the Mayor thundered, ‘and it is not good policy.’ (This, we suspect, is something Ken Livingstone may have muttered to himself when Boris scrapped those affordable homes targets.) He's now 'taking advice' on whether a legal challenge might get London it's fair share of the money.
Anyone can issue a press release, of course. And doing so will not in itself get a single new home built.
But the letter does at least show Boris agitating for Londoners - and poorer Londoners, at that. This, we feel, is what the mayor's job should be about.
Image courtesy of Roomic Cube under a creative commons licence