Continuing our series where shortlisted Conservative candidates for Mayor of London give their views on key issues. Today it’s housing
I was born in a council house in Hillingdon, so I know the value of social housing. I also know that it is not the destination for those people who want to own their own home: an ambition now made impossible for those on modest incomes by London’s high land values.
Many small patches of developable land are ignored by the larger developers: I will insist that Boroughs publish details of their available land and create incentives for small developers and self-builders. If necessary small parcels of GLA land will be given away to self-builders to encourage those who want to build to live, rather than just build to invest.
More Housing Zones will be set up, but the GLA will not fund regeneration schemes that fail the tests of fairness and justice: Compulsory Purchase Orders of leasehold properties should be fair like-for-like compensation, rather than the legalised theft that Labour Councils take part in. I will encourage more Community Land Trusts, the building of 40 Garden Cities outside London and innovative sub-market rent schemes.
We must not abandon the quality of housing however: apart from in five areas, no new residential development will exceed six storeys; all new housing must be street-based housing or carry a statement of non-compliance to the London Plan. All developments of flats should explain how they solve London’s chronic overcrowding problem. Viability assessments will be made public.
There is little doubt: housing is the number one concern of Londoners. A whole generation, possibly two, have little hope of getting on the housing ladder. There is no escaping the maths: London’s population is soaring, adding to existing pressures. This problem is compounded by the fact that people are spending more than half their income on unsustainably high rents , giving them little chance to save for a deposit.
This issue is not merely hurting London’s families. It is also hurting London’s competitiveness, with housing over-taking even transport as a key concern for London’s business leaders. There is no single answer to this difficult problem. However, there is much that can be done.
We need a relentless focus on releasing publicly-owned brownfield land for development, putting empty homes back on the market and a London-first bias for new developments. We also need the consent of communities – working with, not against them – to build the right homes for the communities they are built in.
London also needs a fair deal from central Government. I would campaign, like Boris, to ensure Right to Buy receipts raised in London, stay in London, and are ring-fenced to build more housing in the capital.
Finally, I would take action to support London’s two million private sector renters , who are subject to high rents and sometimes poor-quality housing. Building on the London Rental Standard, I would like to see landlords offering longer-term tenancies, more certainty over rent increases and also ensure rogue landlords are brought to justice.
As Mayor, I will ensure that the supply of new homes is further increased so as to deliver 400,000 over the next decade. Included within that total will be at least 50,000 homes over the first 4 years for ‘essential’ city workers which keep the city running .
It is important that the new homes which are built are affordable, both to rent and to buy, and that they are the sort of homes Londoners want to live in.
Meeting this Housing challenge will require a Mayor with determination plus all the requisite management skills to direct and bring together the landowners (including many public bodies) with the entities which will actually deliver the new homes.
The housing problem is easier to define than the solution. We need more homes but delivering them is going to require a major rethink. Too many homes are not being built because of protracted negotiations, rules which don’t incentivise construction and land not being made available. We need to be more ambitious for London.
Part of it will mean rethinking planning rules, opening up more public sector land for development, building better designed homes (such as those advocated by Create Streets) and looking at new ways to finance everything, such as rent to buy and shared ownership schemes. We need to go back to the drawing board and listen to what developers, councils and local people have to say in 2015 and design a system that works.