Our country and our capital are both firmly in the grip of a housing crisis. Londoners in particular are suffering at the hands of an affordability crisis which stems from years of failure to build enough genuinely affordable homes – with a market now totally reliant on expensive new housing that is way out of the reach of the vast majority of Londoners.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and I have made building more genuinely affordable homes to buy and rent one of our top priorities. Over the last 18 months, we have begun to invest £3.15billion in new genuinely affordable homes, and Sadiq has used his planning powers to rewrite the rules and step in and take proactive action wherever necessary to boost the level of affordable housing across the city.
But there can be no avoiding the fact that to build these new homes and the infrastructure to support them, our city – and indeed our country – desperately need thousands of skilled labourers and homebuilders.
Yet new independent research published by the Mayor today reveals the potential impact of a no-deal hard Brexit - with a warning there could be as many as 43,000 fewer construction jobs in the UK over the course of the next decade, than there would be if we proceeded with the status quo. The analysis, commissioned by the Mayor and carried out by leading economic analysts Cambridge Econometrics, showed there could be 5,000 fewer construction jobs in the capital – at a time when in London we desperately need to boost affordable homebuilding to tackle the housing crisis.
We simply cannot afford to lose skilled EU labour that contributes so much to our city – it is abundantly clear that building the thousands of genuinely affordable homes Londoners so desperately need means we must have access to the very best talent
It forms part of wider research that shows that if the UK leaves the EU with no deal on the single market, customs union or transition arrangements, there could be up to 482,000 fewer jobs across the entire UK than would otherwise be the case. Much-needed investment in the construction sector could fall nationally by £9.6billion – of which £1.2billion would be lost in the capital up to 2030. If you also take the fact that the UK construction sector may miss out on more than £750million by 2030 as a result of less foreign it paints a sorry picture of the government’s abject failure in its negotiations with Brussels.
Experts have suggested that London needs an extra 13,000 new construction workers every year until 2021 to build the homes and major transport infrastructure projects like HS2 and Crossrail. The Mayor has always been clear that a skilled migrant labour work force plays a crucial role in this, and with one in four workers in London coming from the European Union, the need for the government to give a cast-iron guarantee to EU workers has never been more critical.
The Mayor is working hard to train up more Londoners to have the skills needed to work in construction, but we all know that takes time and we already have a significant skills gap to plug. The Prime Minister cannot continue to ignore the valued role EU workers play in not only our construction sector, but the very fabric of our city.
The Mayor has been clear that the government must take its head out of the sand and abandon its pursuit of an extreme hard Brexit, instead seeking a deal that secures continued access to both the Single Market and the Customs Union. We simply cannot afford to lose skilled EU labour that contributes so much to our city – it is abundantly clear that building the thousands of genuinely affordable homes Londoners so desperately need means we must have access to the very best talent from Europe and around the globe.
Securing access to the single market and customs union is crucial to allowing both London and the rest of the country to benefit from a skilled construction workforce that we desperately need if we are to fix the housing crisis. The Prime Minister must listen, and change course before it is too late.
James Murray is London’s deputy mayor for housing and residential development