London is falling lamentably short of delivering the number of homes that the city needs. The mayoral election campaign was dominated by the housing crisis – and rightly so. The chronic under-supply is a crippling social issue and a threat to London’s economic competitiveness. London must double its rate of house building if it is to adequately house a growing population and maintain the city’s global competitiveness. There is no silver bullet – increasing supply requires action on multiple fronts.
During the campaign the new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, made it clear that he wanted to see more homes built, particularly affordable homes. The Mayor proposed the setting up of “Homes for Londoners” to bring together the Mayor’s housing, planning, funding and land powers. Working together, London First and Dentons today launched “Homes for Londoners – A blueprint for how the Mayor can deliver the homes London needs”. The report sets out the first steps that we believe the Mayor should take to deliver on his manifesto promise and to deliver much-needed housing in London.
We support the creation of Homes for Londoners – a body with the simple objective of ensuring that all of London government plays an effective part in increasing housing in London to 50,000 homes a year.
We believe that the initial focus of Homes for Londoners should be to bring public land forward for development. The main pipeline of land under the Mayor’s control is owned by Transport for London (TfL). Homes for Londoners should help to advise the Mayor in establishing a strategy to identify and release TfL sites for development from the perspective of maximising housing supply. As part of the wider agenda of securing an effective pipeline of public land, Homes for Londoners should support the work of the London Land Commission by putting in place a strategy to ensure the disposal of land on the brownfield register. A key focus should be on assembling sites around core public land-holdings by acquiring adjacent privately owned land. Those sites should be released to the market with clearly prescribed density, quantum and mix (including affordable housing) requirements.
The recommendations in the report are predicated on the GLA evolving from being an organisation that sets policies and distributes funds, into an organisation that pushes, and where necessary, directly intervenes to support the delivery of more homes. As part of this, we suggest a bolder approach to the use of compulsory acquisition powers is needed. This should be supported by a loan fund for acquisition and compensation costs to de-risk the process for boroughs and other public bodies.
Delivering the steps set out in the report will need energy, conviction and muscle on the part of the Mayor. This can be done. It should be done and we ask the Mayor to step up and ensure that it is done.