London housing crisis: There’s a practical way to boost home-building - release surplus public sector land in the capital

Stephen Greenhalgh
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Thanks to Boris, we are starting to see more supply of homes (Source: Getty)
I congratulate Sadiq Khan on being selected as the Labour candidate for London mayor.
However, Khan seems to be long on analysis of the problems Londoners face but short on practical solutions. London’s housing crisis is clearly the leading issue at the moment, but all he offers are “new teams” at City Hall without saying how he will deliver new homes.
In contrast, I believe that successful politics must always have delivery at its heart and, with my Plan4London, I am the only candidate in the election to offer a range of practical solutions.
Thanks to Boris, we are starting to see more supply of homes coming through. My Plan4London envisages taking several additional steps which will boost the numbers further.
First, the key to increasing supply is to use surplus public land. As London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, I am struck by how much land and properties the Metropolitan Police hold.
This is also true for other parts of the public sector – TfL owns an area the size of the entire borough of Camden. Some of this is not required currently but, more importantly, the restructuring of public services, which will only accelerate over the coming years, will release huge additional amounts of surplus land and properties.
My experience in both a town hall and at City Hall is that a political leader has to actively strive to ensure that land and properties are released to the market in a timely fashion – this is because services like the police or the NHS are (quite rightly) not property orientated and hence need to be pushed to act.
This is not selling off the “family silver”, but allowing assets to be transferred to more productive uses.
Second, the benefit of developing public land is that it is possible to be more prescriptive about the type of new housing that will be built. There is a chronic need for lower cost new homes to own, particularly for those thousands of essential workers.
We aren’t going to get the 24/7 NHS or police service we need if over half the workforce lives 30 miles away because they can’t afford to live locally.
By setting conditions on the sale and development of public land, I will ensure that 50,000 new homes are created in London over the mayoral term for the people who keep our city alive, alongside 50,000 starter homes to own reserved for Londoners who have lived or worked in our capital for at least three years.
Third, as mayor, I would need to review the planning criteria. Of the available sites, there are often complex problems involved in unlocking them and initiating development, and the length of time that this takes can be excessive.
My experience as a council leader is that housing delivery requires strong political will. Developments like Earls Court, which will deliver 7,500 new homes where there were originally just 760, don’t happen of their own accord. It took constant pressure from me as the political leader.
Fourth, cities are built on their transportation systems and we must obtain a much bigger share of the uplift in the value of land and property which benefits from the massive public investment in new transport infrastructure.
This is something which needs to be taken up with government, but it is my contention that we can unlock a lot of additional money in order to both contribute towards improved infrastructure and help to deliver new homes.
Providing more new homes is vital if we’re to secure London’s future in the global race. My housing proposals are both practical and deliverable.

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