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Losing Homes means Losing Talent – London must get building

Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive, London First

Across the breadth of our membership, the one issue that ties our business leaders together, is the importance of retaining London’s talent. While our capital prides its self on being a vibrant city of culture and opportunities, this means nothing if the people drawn here cannot afford to live here.

We simply aren’t building the homes London needs, and the cost of this is the loss of valuable talent. 70% of employers report they are concerned about the impact of London’s housing costs on their staff recruitment and retention.

We have stories from the London Fire Brigade about firefighters forced to move away – having to travel up to four or five hours each day to make their shift. Or young workers in a growing technology company who commute for four hours every day to keep their job.  And it’s not just our essential workers or young Londoners who are facing the strain, in 2016, 30,000 more 30 somethings left the capital than came here.

Today, in our Scores on the Doors report with Grant Thornton, we reveal the progress, or lack of, in London’s house building during 2017. It shows the capital’s housing pipeline has cracked with nearly half of all the new homes given planning permission not built. That’s tens of thousands of homes for Londoners falling by the wayside every year.

When you dig a little deeper into the figures it’s apparent that London’s outer boroughs are lagging behind. Zones 5 and 6 built just 3278 homes last year, compared with nearly 13,000 homes in central London, despite zones 5 and 6 making up nearly half of London’s land.

What can we do to tackle the housing shortfall?

For me, it comes down to more money, more land, and new and better ways of building.

The £15.3bn of new money over five years promised in the Budget is welcome, but that works out as £3bn per year for the whole of the UK. According to the government’s own calculations, that extra money will only build 37,500 new homes a year, across the whole of the UK. London’s housing target alone is 66,000 homes a year.

On land, the Mayor must get serious and use the full weight of his powers and influence to bring more land forward for development. In practice this means being more proactive on using Compulsory Purchase powers; bolstering internal resource at the GLA to work with public landowners; and, where relevant, the Mayor simply buying up sites, against a clear set of criteria, to bring forward to the market to develop.

Finally, developers must collaborate with each other and across the supply chain to improve construction skills training and develop new ways of building homes, with a focus on modern methods of construction.

To finally give Londoners a place to call home, government at all levels, from Number 10 through to City Hall and the London boroughs must commit to resolving the housing crisis, with the support of business.


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