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The Guardian: "Boris Johnson: brown fields and green elephants"

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"Boris Johnson's recent big announcement that he and the government will put £400m into speeding up house building by means of 20 'housing zones' on brownfield sites across the capital should first be considered against the forbidding backdrop of London's housing supply crisis as a whole. Behold, the big announcement suddenly looks quite small.

"Johnson says the 20 zones, which are odds-on to include sites in Enfield, Haringey, Wandsworth, Tower Hamlets and Ealing, will produce 'up to' 50,000 new homes over the next ten years. That's a maximum of 5,000 homes a year promised for the next decade towards Johnson's new target of 42,000 a year, and even 42,000 wouldn't be enough according to the Greater London Authority's (GLA) own estimate of what is needed, which puts the figure at 49,000. Some think even that's too low.

"The £400m too looks less impressive at second glance than first. Johnson has committed to supplying one half of it and chancellor George Osborne the other. The mayor's £200m will come from existing GLA housing funds, and though he says he might allocate sums as grants this will only be considered if getting the money back isn't possible. Osborne's £200m will all be in the form of loans to private sector bodies only, including housing associations. In other words, the great bulk of the £400m will be taken on as debt."

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"After the recession: welcome to Britain in the age of insecurity"

"Recessions scar. Years of slump, flatlining and wage-increase-free recovery have bequeathed a sense of unease. Industrial orders are growing, but so is the number of food banks. House prices are on the rise, but so is the number of workers on zero-hours contracts. Welfare reforms mean that more and more people are having their benefits docked. Welcome to Britain in the age of insecurity.

"None of the major parties are much loved. Labour is blamed for the recession; the Conservatives have yet to reap any reward for the return of growth. Government and opposition are suffering a backlash from a squeeze on living standards unprecedented in Britain's postwar history. Between them, Labour and the Conservatives could barely scrape together votes from 50% of those who bothered to turn out in the European elections. Ukip, the Greens and the stay-at-home party were the three big winners.

"Earlier this month I travelled the length of Britain by train to gauge what is happening. Some big themes emerged."

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