Row over mayor’s housing policy grows as Newham seeks ‘realistic’ alternative to 6,000 homes by 2011

Newham council is to hold urgent talks with the Greater London Authority over the GLA’s request that the borough provide almost 6,000 affordable homes by 2011.

The move is the latest in an escalating row over the construction of affordable homes in the capital.

The dispute centres around mayor Boris Johnson’s manifesto pledge to scrap his predecessor Ken Livingstone’s 50% affordable housing target and instead negotiate targets with each borough. Newham initially refused to negotiate with the GLA over the new target suggested – the largest in London.

The latest development comes as Sir Simon Milton, Johnson’s deputy mayor for policy and planning, admitted the overall manifesto pledge to provide 50,000 affordable homes in the capital by 2011 might not be met.

Only a third of London’s 32 boroughs have so far agreed affordable housing targets with the mayor. The rest are contesting what they have been asked to provide.

Milton admitted that Newham had at first refused to discuss its target with the mayor on the grounds that the suggested figure of 5,754 by 2011 was too high. Newham has the highest housing targets in the capital, with its overall homes target of 3,510 homes a year 15 times that for Richmond upon Thames.

Milton said some boroughs had not initially realised the target did not have to be met by new build alone, but added that Newham nevertheless had “understandable concerns”.

He accepted that Boris Johnson’s affordable housing aims might not be achieved and that he had no sanctions to impose on boroughs that failed to agree a number, saying: “If we miss it, it won’t be for want of trying.”

Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales said council officers were meeting this month with GLA officials to negotiate a “realistic and deliverable target based on the current economic climate”. He added: “The issue for us is the scale and the deliverability of the target the GLA has set.”