London needs to build more homes, but from reading the press coverage of the mayoral election over the past few months you may have forgotten that.
Instead, you could be forgiven for thinking that this election was all about deciding if we wanted a Corbyn-supporting son of a bus driver or a posh boy Etonian to lead London. After all, that is pretty much the sum total of what we heard from London’s two leading candidates.
We may have hoped that our candidates for the mayoralty would have delivered plans that could cure London’s housing ills, but they haven’t. They declare the housing crises to be their number one priority, yet dodge the real debate: should we build on the Greenbelt?
The greatest threat to London’s position in the world is not the pending EU referendum, nor the fact that “Corbyn’s man” is in City Hall. It is in fact London’s soaring property prices that restrain business growth, job creation and reduce London’s ‘pull’ factor in an increasingly connected world. After all London starts to lose its attraction if you are in a flatshare in zone five aged 35.
Perhaps it is time for all of our politicians to have a reality check. The Greenbelt, which they are so keen to protect, is a long way from Britain’s green and pleasant land, with almost half of it underused scrub land and a further 20,000 hectares lying within 800 metres of a transport system.
Yes, our new mayor should focus on developing brownfield land, but they should do so knowing that restricting development to these areas will see London continue its poor rate of house-building.
Moreover, such a policy will only deliver half the houses required and not the type of housing that London desperately needs. Add into the mix policies that seek higher affordable housing contributions and you have a recipe for more expensive and less effective building.
Now that he has won, Khan needs to work with the industry to knock his plan into shape if he is to deliver on the promises he has made.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Review the status of underperforming land in the Greenbelt
- Work proactively with authorities in the wider South East to deliver a strategic approach to delivering homes
- Implement the National Infrastructure Commission’s plan to deliver 200,000 new homes around improved transport hubs
- Engage with Londoners to explain why land values make the provision of affordable housing so difficult on brownfield sites
- Reward London authorities that deliver high levels of new housing
Whilst Khan’s policy direction may well be fit for our Nimby-inclined electorate, as it stands his ideas won’t fix the critical issue facing London: our requirement to build.