owhere in the UK is the housing crisis more acute than in London. Ensuring Londoners have access to affordable, safe and quality homes – whether they are renters or homeowners – has been at the top of the agenda for Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and now, Sadiq Khan.
Housing is the most important element in a person’s hierarchy of needs. With poor housing we limit quality of life and the ability to contribute positively to society. Inaction on housing risks the gentrification of entire areas, displacing communities and pushing them out of the city. The knock-on effects on the availability of key public-sector workers and London’s economic activity are huge.
This new London Plan goes some way in laying out a strategy for fulfilling the housing needs of the capital and in meeting the 66,000 new homes required every year to meet growing demand.
We’ve already detailed how good planning will be key to this, and how it will ensure there is a framework for the capital to plan for new homes without adverse impacts on existing communities and infrastructure. Transport has a key role to play in delivering this too.
However, to best create an effective strategy to meet future needs, we will need an additional layer of analysis to that provided, which sets clear targets on the housing mix London requires, working closely with Boroughs to ensure future development remains appropriate and is welcomed by local residents.
Affordability has been core to the housing conundrum for some time. Sadiq Khan campaigned on a pledge for 50% of new homes to be “genuinely affordable”. We would like to see this reinforced as a London-wide target. Furthermore, we want to see more ambition in this space and for the plan to work towards eradicating the affordable housing need over its lifecycle. One way in which London could meet this more demanding KPI could be through waiving a percentage of planning fees in proportion to the number of genuinely affordable units any development delivers.
However, meeting more stringent objectives shouldn’t come at the expense of quality. These new homes will need to be sustainable, inclusive and well-designed making the most of recent technological advances and construction practices. In short, they need to be fit for the needs of the 21st Century Londoner.
We were delighted to see the Mayor recently move forward with a small sites pilot building on land owned by Transport for London. The London Plan’s emphasis on encouraging small site development is welcome but we would like to see greater incentivisation – aggregating small sites would encourage developers as they would have more certainty, streamline planning costs and it would also be easier for Boroughs to implement a strategy to meet their own housing targets. It could also encourage a more cost-effective approach to construction, focusing on offsite manufacture.
Discussing housing and London sometimes feels like a quagmire with no easy identifiable solution. While the London Plan hasn’t identified a "silver bullet", it has highlighted that the issue is now, for possibly the first time, being approached in a systematic and holistic way.