Peter Whittle is UKIP’s candidate to be the next Mayor of London, and he tells Business Insider that he rents his home and probably wouldn’t be able to afford a mortgage. With housing becoming such a hot topic in the race to become London’s next mayor in May, Business Insider sat down with with Whittle to find out how he plans to solve London’s housing crisis, given that he is also (in theory) a victim of it.
All of the mayoral candidates, including Whittle, want more houses to be built in London. But Whittle reckons that everyone is missing the point — migration. This is what he told us, the added emphasis is ours:
The truth is really, is that when you get two people like Sadiq Khan or Zac Goldsmith, and not just them, Boris before, they come up with big targets right, what they’re going to do, you mentioned housing. We’re going to have 40,000 new homes, 60,000, 50,000 – take your pick. What they do, is they pick these figures out of thin air and they’re talking really about the supply side of things. They never talk about the demand side. So, I’ve had hustings, that I did at the general election with these people, and indeed discussions, where you have these sort of phantom discussion, where no one will also talk about the reasons as to why this is. Without question, London’s population has rocketed in a historically unprecedented way in the past 15-20 years. Of course, that is due, almost exclusively to international migration, and therefore that has a knock-on effect, a huge knock-on effect on housing … So I would say that figures like 40,000 new houses, or 50,000 new houses are largely meaningless, when you cannot basically plan for the number of people who are going to be coming.
UKIP have long campaigned for controls on immigration, but that is a national issue and not something the Mayor has any control of. Whittle admits this, but still says that the Mayor should lobby for “sensible migration” in order to deal with the housing crisis.
I would say therefore that as mayor, one of the most important things that you can do, is to lobby and to campaign, because the mayor doesn’t actually have any power in this area, so I would certainly make the point that we have to have sensible migration, and we have to have to have controlled migration. And that’s why we always have believed in an Australian-style points system, but that is something that is crucial if you are going to deal with the housing situation.
Whittle might think that London’s housing problems are rooted in immigration numbers, but he still can’t ignore the fact that there simply isn’t enough housing being built. So he also has a three-point plan to build more houses. Firstly, as the resident of a former brownfield site himself, Whittle wants to create a comprehensive registry of all London’s brownfield sites.
A third of all brownfield land is actually in London, but we don’t have a comprehensive register for it. There have been attempts I think, but there’s never been comprehensive brownfield land registry.
Secondly he wants to look at taxing buy-to-let landlords at a higher rate if they leave their properties empty.
When it comes to the whole problem which exercises many people including me, which is the whole kind of phenomenon of buy-to-let, which of course squeezes the market even more, we’ve been discussing the idea of actually, at the very least when it comes to the rental value of these places if they are still empty, they should be taxed at a higher rate.
Finally, Whittle who calls himself a “great believer in social housing” wants to give people who have lived in London for at least five years priority when it comes to being offered social housing.
It seems to me completely logical and fair that it should be Londoners with a local connection, a local attachment who should be given priority in social housing. And basically, we see that as being, we’ve sort of measured that as being as having lived in London for five years. We think that’s very reasonable, the time at the moment is only two years, that’s the government’s one …
The principle, you know, is that it adds stability to an area, it’s way in which people who have a local connection, Londoners can actually continue to live in a place where they have maybe built a life, you know over the past five years. And I think that this is terribly important, and I think that this is one particular area where the mayor would work with local authorities, but I think that that is certainly a priority.
Finally, when it comes to big property developments, Whittle says he wants to make things more democratic. The mayor has the power to overturn local councils when they give planning consent and Whittle wants to pass that power on to local people by holding referendums.
When it comes to large building and large developments, local people should be allowed to take part in a referendum which will be binding, absolutely binding. And as the mayor it will be a wonderful thing to actually return democracy to that kind of level. Because this is one area, everyone is affected by big developments, whether they work in them or they live in a shadow of them, whether they have their light diminished as a result of them. But the fact is that it should be something that people should be allowed to vote in.
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