Cllr Gaj Wallooppillai is a councillor in Kingston Upon Thames.
It is a well-known fact that our capital city is in the midst of a housing crisis. Londoners are finding themselves forking out the vast majority of their wage to their landlords to pay for the extortionate rents that they face across London, dashing any hope that they may be able to save to buy a home of their own.
We must urgently address the cripplingly high rents Londoners are being forced to pay and the ever further out-of-reach dream of owning a home. London doesn’t just need thousands of homes; it needs hundreds of thousands of homes. This begs the question, what is the Mayor of London doing to resolve this crisis? The simple answer is nothing.
As the politician responsible for housing in London, he has talked a big game in the warm-up but he hasn’t delivered on the pitch. We desperately need a mayor who will work collaboratively with London boroughs and a Conservative government to deliver homes that are affordable for hardworking people across the city.
The truth is Sadiq Khan’s first year as Mayor was full of hope. Londoners of all political persuasions were hoping that he would be able to continue to grapple with the housing challenge that Boris was making inroads on.
Unfortunately he has performed woefully in his first year. He promised 50,000 homes a year and instead has only delivered 17,130. He said he would give us record amounts of affordable homes and has given us less than 9,000.
Apart from not delivering two-thirds of the homes he promised and letting down Londoners on affordable housing, the most alarming fact is that Khan has not delivered a single unit of social housing. Not a single one. In a city of 8.6 million people with hundreds of thousands on the housing waiting lists he is responsible for the worst year on social housing building since the mayoralty began.
Resolving the housing crisis in London isn’t a quick fix nor is it an easy trick to pull off. What is concerning however is Khan’s inability to make any progress at all. He hasn’t even been able to do the easy things well.
Here are three simple things that Khan should have done immediately to get the ball rolling, which are within his capacity as Mayor:
- Put aside political posturing and work with the government to free up the undeveloped brownfield land across London. Between local councils and central government there is enough publicly owned brownfield land to build over 130,000 homes. The Mayor needs to show everyone he is serious and work more collaboratively with borough leaders and government ministers to get the most out of public land for Londoners.
- The land owned by a single organisation within the Greater London Authority – Transport for London (TfL) – is the same size as the entire Borough of Camden. By building on TfL’s surplus land, the Mayor could double the number of social houses built in the last 9 years instead of hoarding valuable land.
- Radically reform the way we think of density and home building. It has been said that in order to build the homes we need in London we need to do one of two things, build up or build out; build up in the form of high-rise flats or build out onto our cherished Greenbelt. The reality is that organisations like Create Streets have proven that the densest accommodation tends to be our old Edwardian redbrick apartment blocks and Victorian terrace houses. It has been shown time and again that Londoners prefer these types of homes, but current strict planning regulations make them nearly impossible to build. It is time for Sadiq to stop talking and start listening to what people actually want. The mayor needs to step up and lead the drive for more low and medium rise high density developments that reflect our capital needs and desires.
The greatest threat to housing in London is continued silence on Khan’s inability to undertake the basic duties of being a Mayor. At a time when the UK has had the highest year of house building post-crash, it is inexcusable that in London, Khan has allowed it to drop so precipitously.
If the only barometer of success was how many retweets or Facebook likes he gets, you could make a compelling argument that Khan is doing a great job. Unfortunately, as Mayor of London, that is not the job Sadiq applied for and took.
What we need is someone who is more concerned with building London than building their own popularity. The Mayor has so far failed in this regard and the people of London will ultimately pay.