There is much to like in the Mayor’s London Housing Strategy, which was published this week for a three month consultation.
It’s an old fashioned, down to earth housing strategy, covering different tenures and price points, housing need, different providers - including SMEs, self builders, housing associations and traditional house builders - as well as an important role for local authorities.
It has a big new supply target of 90,000 homes by 2021; though these are starts, not completions. There are proposals for use of small sites as well as City Hall-owned land and an eye-catching £250 million for the GLA to use to buy and prepare land for sale, shovel-ready and de-risked, so that they can be built out at speed. The proceeds of sale are to be recycled for further land purchases. This is on top of the £3.15bn affordable housing programme that is currently being delivered.
Although the Mayor will be intervening in the market through his enlarged land team, fundamentally he will still need partners to deliver
There is a nod to existing stock, and also to private tenants and landlords. There are also plans on homelessness, rough sleeping and supported housing.
It’s comprehensive, but its challenge is delivery.
Although the Mayor will be intervening in the market through his enlarged land team, fundamentally he will still need partners to deliver, and to make that happen, the circumstances and conditions for partnership will need to be right.
Greater devolution and flexibility of funding would certainly help. Extension of housing zones, where housing money is used to support key infrastructure projects that create the right economics for house building will be important. The Mayor has called for a long-term settlement on housing associations’ rents, so that they can plan new developments, with the certainty of future rental streams. This must be right. He also suggests use of compulsory purchase orders where necessary to secure land for new affordable homes.
Much of what providers in the private and public sector have asked for is in the strategy. If he is able to deliver, then it will be for providers to respond. No excuses.
It’s comprehensive, but its challenge is delivery
The g15 group of housing associations, who collectively will build 42,000 affordable homes in London by 2021, have already welcomed the strategy, seeing the Mayor’s ability to securing land as the key to building more.
For house builders, the pressure will be on to build more and faster. For contractors, the opportunities to be housing association and local authority delivery partners have just been given a boost.
However, the Mayor has already sought to dampen expectations on delivery with the ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint’ quote. That’s a pity. The land is there; the money and resources are there, or coming; the partners are there also. The final piece of the jigsaw is an ambitious plan. And we need that as well as the strategy, if we are genuinely to address the housing crisis in London.
Steve Douglas is a Partner at Altair