Housing minister Brandon Lewis today said Londoners had to make a “judgement call” about whether they could afford to live in the capital.

The MP said the Government had to be “up front” about the thousands of people unable to afford soaring rents and house prices in central London.

However, he said plans to build 200,000 new starter homes and boost the Help to Buy loan scheme were a “game-changer”.

Mr Lewis defended the Autumn Statement’s focus on buyers, even though thousands of Londoners will never be able to afford their own home. He said the housing benefit cap for social tenants — which critics say will increase hardship and drive more people out of the capital — was “logical” and about ensuring people paid their “fair share”.

In his first interview since last week’s spending review by Chancellor George Osborne, Mr Lewis said: “We’ve got to be quite up front about the fact that, in London, we have got a finite space and if people want to live and work in and around London it’s actually making a judgment call about what you can afford and where is right for you.

“There are certain points in your life that you might be commuting more — many of us used to do that. At other points in your life you might be able to live in London, whether it’s the rental sector — social, affordable — or eventually with a… starter home. It’s about working out what is right for you.

“For many years, this country has built a lot of affordable housing to rent… but what there’s not been is any focus on affordability to buy and, ultimately, 86 per cent of the population want to buy and own their own home. So we make no apologies for being focused on driving up that ability.”

Mr Lewis refused to guarantee that the cash raised from forcing councils to sell their most expensive properties to fund discounts for housing association properties would be used to build more homes in the capital. London politicians, including Mayor Boris Johnson, are concerned that the plan will cause huge financial losses.

Labour mayoral hopeful Sadiq Khan has proposed an amendment to the Housing Bill to ring-fence the expected £865 million a year raised from right-to-buy and called for each home sold to be replaced by another home for social rent in the same borough.

But Mr Lewis said he supported a proposal by Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith to build two affordable homes for every one sold.

On a visit to a Hackney development by intermediate affordable housing provider Pocket, Mr Lewis said the Government’s plans for starter homes were a “game-changer” that would bring the average first-time buyer property worth £350,000 within reach of many more Londoners.

Starter homes can be bought at a discount and sold off at full market value after five years.

Source – Evening Standard