Goldsmith Draws Battle Lines Over Housing in London Mayoral Race

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative Party candidate for next year’s London mayoral election, said he wants to set up a fund to attract institutional investors to pay for housebuilding in the U.K. capital.

Goldsmith’s proposal was intended to draw a line between him and Sadiq Khan, the opposition Labour Party candidate. Khan is seeking to give Londoners first preference to buy new apartments to stop them all being bought off-plan by foreign investors.

“As mayor, I will set up a fund designed specifically to attract big institutional investors, and I will use it to build a new generation of homes,” Goldsmith told delegates on Tuesday at the Conservative conference in Manchester, northwest England. “Where homes are bought purely as investments, and are left empty, that causes huge resentment. So we can do one of two things: We can close the doors to outside investors, which is what the Labour Party wants to do, or we can capture that finance and use it to build the homes we need on publicly owned land.”

Housing will be a key issue in the campaign, with many young Londoners unable to afford to buy homes and a squeeze on social housing exacerbated by Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to force non-profit housing providers to sell properties to their tenants.

“We’ll give Londoners first dibs on the new homes that are built, we’ll bring in a London living rent, and we’ll build homes for first-time buyers,” Khan told delegates at the Labour Party conference in Brighton last week. “We’ll stand up to big property developers and insist that half of all new homes are genuinely affordable.”

Heathrow Silence

Goldsmith, who has threatened to resign as a House of Commons lawmaker if Cameron backs the expansion of Heathrow Airport, did not mention his opposition to the proposal in his 10-minute speech. He’s the member of Parliament for Richmond Park, under the Heathrow flightpath. Khan has said he wants an extra runway at Gatwick, south of the capital instead of at Heathrow, to the west.

Goldsmith made a virtue of his relationship with Cameron and his government, telling delegates it would mean a better deal for Londoners.

“Greater devolution, lower taxes, better infrastructure can only be delivered if there is mutual trust and respect between local and national government,” Goldsmith said. “And that will only happen if we have a Conservative mayor, working with a Conservative government.”

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