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London needs ‘21st Century Domesday Book’ to help solve housing crisis

The creation of a 21st Century ‘Domesday Book’ of publicly owned sites that should be sold off for homes is among the key recommendations of a new report into solving London’s housing crisis.

The report, Home Truths, also calls for the creation of new communities in the south west and north east of London to meet burgeoning demand.

It suggests Brimsdown in the Upper Lea Valley and Chessington, south of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, as two areas that could support the creation of significant new suburbs.

The study was carried out by London First’s Housing Task Force, which is made up of businesses from across the industry, from developers to housing associations.

Recent calls by politicians, businesses and think tanks for new towns are welcome, according to its authors, but in London the solution lies in creating new suburbs.

“The Mayor of London has the political authority and the powers at his finger-tips to build new suburbs,” said Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First.

“Boris Johnson now needs to show the national politicians – who can’t even agree on publishing a white paper on new towns – how it’s done.”

New York, Paris, London

Another option is increasing the density of homes in the capital, with London looking to Hong Kong, New York or Paris for lessons in how to best use its limited space.

The report also sets out circumstances in which boroughs should use compulsory purchase powers to bring land back to the market if it is held with no prospect of development taking place.

It advocates local authorities losing decision-making powers if they fail to meet house building targets set by the Mayor.

But the study says this stick should be off-set with a carrot of financial incentives to meet targets in the first place.

Roger Bright, chairman of the taskforce and former chief executive of the Crown Estate, said radical change was needed.

“We need political will and real leadership on this, because marginal change will not deliver the step change in house building that London needs,” he said.

“This is hampering the capital’s economic and physical growth and will continue to do so unless the real obstacles to getting more homes built are tackled.”

Booming population

The report contains 12 recommendations to create the right conditions for more house building and attract a greater range of developers into the market place.

The population in London is expected to add the equivalent of a city at least the size of Birmingham to the capital’s headcount over the next decade.

The Mayor of London is set to increase his housing target to 42,000 new homes a year, but latest figures show that only 18,380 new homes were constructed in 2012/13.

Stephen Howlett, Chief Executive of Peabody housing association, said London’s housing crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing employers and investors in the capital.

“This report suggests practical steps that would make a real difference, delivering more affordable homes, thriving communities, and sustainable economic growth,” he said.

Rob Perrins, Managing Director of the Berkeley Group, said tough targets could be met and house-building was London’s No.1 priority.

“But the central problem is land,” he said. “Not enough sites are coming forward for development, and too few are in the hands of credible developers.”

For more information please contact:

Michael Millar,  Media Relations Manager, London First

D: 020 7665 1427 M: 07748 103392

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