Boris Johnson says 50,000 homes will be ‘delivered’ – but not necessarily newly built

The London mayor has admitted that he may not be able to build all the 50,000 affordable homes promised over the next three years.

Speaking at the Future of London regeneration conference on Tuesday, Boris Johnson said: “I’m not going to give up on the target of delivering 50,000 homes, but this is delivery, note, not building.”

Johnson’s planning adviser, Sir Simon Milton, later confirmed that this meant not all of the homes would be new stock. He said: “It means we will increase the amount of affordable stock by 50,000, but that will not necessarily be the amount built. We may acquire some, or we may seek to use empty properties or other means.”

Milton, previously leader of Westminster council, claimed this had always been the intention. However, page two of Johnson’s mayoral manifesto, which is now not available on the internet, stated: “I will work with the boroughs to build 50,000 more affordable homes by 2011.”

Belinda Porich, head of London region for the National Housing Federation, said: “It’s a bit worrying if he’s given up on building the 50,000 already. He should be looking hard at all the options to make extra stock, despite the fact we’re in extraordinary times.”

At the same conference, organised by the London boroughs’ partnership body, Future of London, Tim Williams, senior adviser to former housing minster Caroline Flint, called on the government to abandon its target to build 3 million homes by 2020. Williams said the government should instead use the proposed Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to ensure more homes could be built in the upturn.

He said: “Building 240,000 homes each year should be dropped. Rather than trying to deliver undeliverable targets, the HCA should buy land cheap in preparation for the turn.”