Dear London Mayor, Here's How to Fix the Housing Crisis

06/05/2016 16:18 | Updated 06 May 2016

Dear Mayor,

After weeks on the campaign trail, and as you walk into City Hall you will be in no doubt as to the challenges London faces. Nowhere are the challenges more urgent than in housing, an issue which dominated the campaign on all sides, as rising housing needs and housing costs have pushed the London housing crisis to the forefront of the political agenda.

If London is to house its growing population, and support both retention and inward migration of key workers, the immediate priority must be to set a firm plan so that the capital can move towards delivering 50,000 new homes every year - a figure not seen in the last 50 years, and one that requires doubling the rate of current development.

It is a major challenge, but not insurmountable. Confronting it in full will demand the devolution of more powers to City Hall to tackle some of the deepest issues, and thus negotiations with central government must continue. Critically however, there are a set of immediate actions which should start from day one of your attaining office to lay the groundwork for fixing the crisis, and which are detailed in the London Housing Commission.

First, unlocking the land needed for 50,000 homes a year will bring down a major barrier to development in the Capital. The existing 'London plan' has failed to identify sufficient land for current housing needs - a shortfall of 65,000 homes up to 2025. You should seek ways to offer increased support to the London Land Commission - through additional resources and status - to help identify suitable brownfield land for new developments.

You should also work with London's outer boroughs to find sites near key public transport routes, including greenbelt land, to unlock the space to build the new homes that London needs. Similarly, you should offer support for boroughs engaging in more neighbourhood planning, which help to identify further land while ensuring developments better meet the needs of communities.

Second, too few new planning applications are coming into the system, and too few turn into homes, let alone ones that Londoners can afford. You should work with the boroughs to ensure their local plans have the land in place to deliver London's housing needs, and support them in identifying the big sites that are not being built on quickly enough, and offer planning and financial support to get them moving. To provide more certainty to the planning process, stabilise land prices, and ultimately deliver more affordable homes, you should use your power to issue guidance on negotiating affordable housing with private developers, and consult on establishing a fixed affordable housing contribution, to stop developers bargaining away London's much needed new affordable homes.

Third, tapping into new sources of investment and new builders to develop the houses London needs will be critical. Working with public pension funds to unlock more investment in rented homes would help, as would bringing forward more sites to help London's small builders get back on their feet, and allow new entrants to the market.

And finally, while homebuilding will arguably be a key priority, London's current renters need help too. Tenant numbers have doubled in the last decade, and rents continue to rise, having gone up at a rate of 16% over the past five years while earnings have done so at only 2%. But within this, quality and security are also concerns. As well as your planned London social lettings agency, you should launch a London letting's hub to help tenants link up with accredited landlords and give feedback to ensure quality standards, while landlords could receive discounted fees for offering longer, more secure tenancies.

London's housing crisis is the most urgent challenge facing the capital. It won't be fixed easily, it won't be fixed overnight, and it cannot be fixed from City Hall alone. Your office will need to work with government to make the overwhelming case for transferring power over London's housing to City Hall and to London's boroughs, in order to unlock the resources needed to steer the housing market, build the affordable homes required, and clean up the rental sector. And yet, there is much that can be done from day one to lay the foundations for confronting the crisis, and to deliver immediate improvements to London's housing prospects.

Yours sincerely,


Charlotte Snelling is an IPPR researcher working on housing and welfare. She tweets at @CSnelling_UK