For sale signs go up outside a house in London. Photo: Getty Images
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Solving the housing crisis will be at the heart of my mayoralty

The single biggest thing that Londoners need from their next Mayor: a solution to the housing crisis.

The London I grew up in was full of communities made up of families and friends who had lived on the same streets and in the same area for years. The social benefits of that sense of community were there for all to see - the neighbour who would keep an eye on your house, a relative who could step in for a bit of emergency child minding, or the friend you went through primary and secondary school with celebrating the birth of your first child. It was London at its best.

Today much of that community has been lost. The main reason for that has been the lack of enough new and affordable homes. It is the single biggest thing that Londoners need from their next Mayor: a solution to the housing crisis.

That's why I'm running for Mayor - because I believe I am the best candidate to build the homes Londoners need.

There is no silver bullet on housing. Fixing the crisis will require us to roll up our sleeves every day, and get on with the hands-on work of bringing forward land, getting developments approved and then getting on with building them. I have a comprehensive plan to do just that.

I will lead a new London Homes Team at City Hall. I don't want to waste time creating a new external organisation. I will start putting this team in place from day one and they will report directly to my desk. They will work around the clock on getting London building. They will bring forward developments on land controlled by the Mayor - from finding the land, sourcing the funding to planning and developing. And crucially, they will work with town halls to help them develop their own new homes teams, and to bring forward land and investment for building. They will be an in-house dedicated development team, working with councils, housing associations and business in order to build more homes for Londoners.

Firstly they will get on with sorting out financing – new homes need money to build them. It is an obscenity, with the housing crisis London faces, that the present mayor is sitting on a £400 million underspend in his affordable housing budget not being used for Londoners. So the first thing I will do is get that money working for Londoners - working with councils, developers and housing associations to get more social homes built. I will develop a new 'London Home Bond', to bring in much needed private investment and will fight for greater financial devolution to do this on a grand scale. I will also work with pension funds to develop products that attract them to invest in housing. Meanwhile, I will fight for freedom for Councils to invest more in new social and affordable homes. 

But there is no point in building new homes if they are not available to Londoners. As Mayor, I will use all my powers and investment to put Londoners first when it comes to hosing. I will reinstate a 50% target for genuinely affordable homes, putting Londoners needs ahead of massive windfalls for landowners and developers. I will use planning powers to prevent 'buy-to-leave' investors buying homes just to leave them empty, and ensure local tenants and first-time buyers are offered first refusal on new homes.

And while we build the homes we need, I will do everything I can to protect Londoners renting in the private sector. I'll introduce a new 'London Living Rent' model of intermediate housing - linking rents to a third of income. I'll create a London-wide social letting agency, building on the brilliant work of London Councils and I'll push the Government to give the Mayor the power to freeze rents in the private sector. 

This Tory Government are planning a toxic mix of policies that will make the housing crisis many times worse. They want to reduce the benefit cap in London even further and sell off housing association homes. Together these policies will exacerbate the crisis and rip London's communities apart. I will work with politicians from all parties, businesses and community leaders to stop this from happening. 

Fixing the housing crisis really is the greatest challenge facing my generation in London. We can only do it if we work together - changing London for the better, together. But if we are to succeed, we need a hands-on Mayor, willing to role up their sleeves and get on with the hard graft of building the homes we need.

Sadiq Khan is MP for Tooting, shadow justice secretary and shadow minister for London.
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What's to be done about racial inequality?

David Cameron's words on equal opportunities are to be welcomed - now for some action, says Sunder Katwala.

David Cameron made the strongest, clearest and most high profile statement about ethnic inequalities and the need to tackle discrimination ever yet offered by a British Prime Minister in his leader’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
“Picture this. You’ve graduated with a good degree. You send out your CV far and wide. But you get rejection after rejection. What’s wrong? It’s not the qualifications or the previous experience. It’s just two words at the top: first name, surname. Do you know that in our country today: even if they have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names? … That, in 21st century Britain, is disgraceful. We can talk all we want about opportunity, but it’s meaningless unless people are really judged equally”, said Cameron.
While the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, this was a powerfully argued Prime Ministerial intervention – and a particularly well-timed one, for three reasons.

Firstly, the Prime Minister was able to root his case in an all-but-universally accepted appeal for equal opportunities. It will always prove more difficult in practice to put political energy and resources behind efforts to remedy discrimination against a minority of the population unless a convincing fairness case is made that values cherished across our whole society are at stake. Cameron’s argument, that any party which tells itself that it is the party of the ‘fair chance’ and ‘the equal shot’ must have a response when there is such clear evidence of discrimination, should prove persuasive to a Conservative Party that has not seen race inequalities as its natural territory. Cameron argued that the same principles should animate responses to discrimination when it comes to race, gender and social class. Put like that, wanting job interviews to be fair – by eradicating conscious and unconscious patterns of bias wherever possible – would strike most Britons as offering as clear a case of the values of fair play as wanting the best baker to win the Great British Bake-Off on television.
Secondly, Cameron’s intervention comes at a potential "tipping point" moment for fair opportunities across ethnic groups. Traditionally, ethnic discrimination has been discussed primarily through the lens of its impact on the most marginalised. Certainly, persistent gaps in the criminal justice system, mental health provision and unemployment rates remain stark for some minority groups. What has been less noticed is the emergence of a much more complex pattern of opportunity and disadvantage – not least as a consequence of significant ethnic minority progress.

Most strikingly of all, in educational outcomes, historic attainment gaps between ethnic minorities and their white British peers have disappeared over the last decade. In the aggregate, ethnic minorities get better GCSE results on average. Ethnic minority Britons are more likely, not less likely, to be university graduates than their fellow citizens. 

As a result of that progress, Cameron’s intervention comes at a moment of significant potential – but significant risk too. Britain’s ethnic minorities are the youngest and fastest-growing sections of British society. If that educational progress translates into economic success, it will make a significant contribution to the "Great British Take-Off" that the Prime Minister envisions. But if that does not happen, with educational convergence combined with current ‘ethnic penalties’ in employment and income persisting, then that potential could well curdle into frustration that the British promise of equal opportunities is not being kept.  Cameron also mirrored his own language in committing himself to both a ‘fight against extremism’ and a ‘fight against discrimination’: while those are distinct challenges and causes, actively pursuing both tracks simultaneously has the potential, at least, depolarise some debates about responses to extremism  - and so to help deepen the broad social coalitions we need for a more cohesive society too.

Thirdly, Cameron’s challenge could mark an important deepening in the political competition between the major parties on race issues. Many have been struck by the increase in political attention on the centre-right to race issues over the last five to ten years. The focus has been on the politics of representation. By increasing the number of non-white Conservative MPs from two to seventeen since 2005, Cameron has sent a powerful signal that Labour’s traditional claim to be ‘the party of ethnic minorities’ would now be contested. Cameron was again able to celebrate in Manchester several ways in which his Cabinet and Parliamentary benches demonstrate many successful journeys of migrant and minority integration in British society. That might perhaps help to ease the fears, about integration being impossible in an era of higher immigration, which the Home Secretary had articulated the previous day.

So symbolism can matter. But facial diversity is not enough. The politics of ethnic minority opportunity needs to be about more than visits to gurdwaras, diversity nights at the party conference fringes and unveiling statues of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Labour leader did include one brief celebratory reference to Britain’s ethnic diversity – “as I travelled the country during the leadership campaign it was wonderful to see the diversity of all the people in our country” – and to Labour bringing in more black, Asian and ethnic minority members - but it did not include any substantial content on discrimination. Tim Farron acknowledged during his leadership campaign that the Liberal Democrats have struggled to get to the starting-line on race and diversity at all. The opposition parties too will no doubt now be challenged to match not just the Prime Minister’s rhetorical commitment to challenging inequalities but also to propose how it could be done in practice.

Non-white Britons expect substance, not just symbolism from all of the parties on race inequalites.  Survation’s large survey of ethnic minority voters for British Future showed the Conservatives winning more ethnic minority support than ever before – but just 29 per cent of non-white respondents were confident that the Conservatives are committed to treating people of every ethnic background equally, while 54 per cent said this of Labour. Respondents were twice as likely to say that the Conservatives needto do more to reach out – and the Prime Minister would seem to be committed to showing that he has got that message.  Moreover, there is evidence that ethnic inclusion could be important in broadening a party’s appeal to other younger, urban and more liberal white voters too – which is why it made sense for this issue to form part of a broader attempt by David Cameron to colonise the broad centre of British politics in his Manchester speech.

But the case for caution is that there has been limited policy attention to ethnic inequalities under the last two governments. Restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab decided to give up his role chairing an ethnic minority taskforce for successive governments, unconvinced there was a political commitment to do much more than convene a talking shop. Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone did push the CV discrimination issue – but many Conservatives were sceptical. Cameron’s new commitment may face similar challenges from those whose instinct is to worry that more attention to discrimination or bias in the jobs market will mean more red tape for business.

Labour had a separate race inequalities manifesto in 2015, outside of its main election manifesto, while the Conservative manifesto did not contain significant commitments to racial inequality. The mid-campaign launch in Croydon of a series of race equality pledges showed an increasing awareness of the growing importance of ethnic minority votes - though the fact that they all involved aiming for increases of 20 per cent by 2020 gave them a slightly back-of-the-envelope feel. 

Prime Ministerial commitments have an important agenda-setting function. A generation ago the Stephen Lawrence case opened the eyes of middle England to racist violence and police failures, particularly through the Daily Mail’s persistent challenging of those injustices. A Conservative Prime Minister’s words could similarly make a big difference in the mainstreaming of the issue of inequalities of opportunity. What action should follow words? Between now and next year’s party conference season, that must will now be the test for this Conservative government – and for their political opponents too. 

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.