Boris Johnson under pressure after approving Westfield extension

While Boris Johnson continues to catch the headlines as Mayor of London, London assembly members have today criticised him after approving an extension of the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush. This development will take in an array of office space, leisure complexes and 1300 homes. When you bear in mind the ever-growing need for new builds across London, and the rest of the UK, why has Boris Johnson attracted the wrath of London assembly members?

Put simply, the 1300 home development which is part of the extension to the Westfield shopping centre will only contain 162 affordable properties. The approval of this development is certainly not in keeping with the London City Hall target of 62,000 new homes per annum of which 41,000 should be affordable – equating to over 60% of new homes.

Balancing jobs against affordable housing

There is no doubt that this £1 billion extension to the Westfield shopping centre will attract businesses and consumers to the region. This ongoing redevelopment will have a major influence on future business in the area and the fact that 1300 homes are being built is also something of a godsend. However, while there is a need to balance investor demand and affordable housing it does seem as though the Mayor of London’s approval of this development is not in sync with targets for affordable housing in the future.

Quote from : “The headlines in the UK property market today are focused upon London property prices which increased by 4.2% during the month of April.”

Boris Johnson was quoted as saying the scheme would “create thousands of much-needed new homes and jobs and ensure that the area remains one of West London’s leading shopping destinations for many years to come”. Although Labour’s housing spokesperson, Tom Copley responded suggesting, “Once again Boris Johnson has approved a major development with a woefully inadequate level of affordable housing. He says he is committed to getting more affordable homes built, but actions speak louder than words”.

Do the London authorities favour corporate investment?

It is a very difficult situation for any politician, balancing the need for inward investment while also tackling the problem of affordable housing which is significantly worse in the capital compared to the rest of the UK. We have seen a massive increase in the cost of property across London and much of this has been fuelled by not only local investor demand but also overseas investors. This new development will obviously attract the attention of those looking for high quality real estate exposure in London but it will do not think to tackle the problem of affordable housing.

While few people have any sympathy for Boris Johnson, who is very forthright in his opinions, he is very much stuck in something of a quandary. If he moves lock stock and barrel towards affordable housing then this would reduce investment returns and dissuade investors from ploughing their money into regeneration. Even though he has been criticised for approving the Westfield scheme in its current format it will bring massive investment to the region and more jobs but will likely push up the price of property and exacerbate the affordable housing issue.

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