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London’s Housing Crisis: A guide on how to eat an elephant

London’s Housing Crisis: A guide on how to eat an elephant

The elephant
With the capital’s population likely to reach 10 million in the next decade and land prices still rising strongly, London has the highest proportions of both private and social renters than anywhere else in England. Housing waiting lists have never been longer, first-time buyers have never been older and we have never spent so much of our income on rent. What’s more these trends don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.

The plight of Londoners being made homeless – many of whom hold down the key jobs that keep London moving - is almost daily news and a major hot potato for politicians and local authorities.

The targets have been set. The requirements identified. We know what is needed, the only thing missing is the how. We need more affordable homes in London. London is the least affordable place to build. Now that’s a real Catch 22.

Sadiq Khan has proposed that half the target of 50,000 homes a year should be genuinely affordable to rent or buy. He also wants councils to protect tenants that are unable to afford market rents. This seems pretty ambitious in a climate where developers paying top dollar for land, need to achieve the highest rents and the sharpest exit yield to make projects stack up. And let’s not forget the complexities around funding and section agreements. And to cap it all, there is an industry-wide labour shortage.

Successive governments have tried and failed to deliver enough homes for us all to live in and we agree with the Mayor of London when he proclaims “It is beyond shameful that rough sleeping and homelessness is rising in one of the richest cities in the world”.

The tools

Existing legislation and planning strategies are failing our society. Fundamental changes are required to enable the UK to meet its obligations to its citizens. We must:

  • find ways to ‘stop the bleeding’, which includes strategies to reduce public spending on short term, unsuitable accommodation for those in immediate housing need;
  • implement a step change in policy which addresses the drivers behind the housing market, the inflexibility of the planning system and encourages a more diverse accommodation offering;
  • transform the way we design and construct our buildings;
  • transform the way we perceive and value land and the property built upon it.

One bite at a time
The London Borough of Ealing’s strategy is to reduce the number of local families who have to be housed in hostels or emergency bed and breakfast accommodation by providing innovative housing supply. This off site construction solution not only enables under-used land to be put to valuable use while a suitable permanent plan is developed, but also provides fit-for- purpose emergency provision within the borough, which is both affordable and quick to deploy leading to a better outcome for all involved.

Find out more about Marston Court

Interim developments in the form of prefabs went part way to resolving the massive post- war housing crisis – delivering 1.2 million new pre-fabricated houses between 1945 and 1951. We need a similar intervention from Central Government today to help implement the policy step change we require to drive the uptake of off site construction and innovative land use models.

Response to the Housing White Paper