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New report urges ‘muscular’ Homes for Londoners

Housing was the central issue of the Mayoral election and new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has made it clear that building more homes, particularly affordable homes is his top priority.

During his election campaign, Mr Khan proposed setting up Homes for Londoners (HfL), to “bring together all the Mayor’s housing, planning, funding, and land powers alongside new experts to raise investment, assemble land, make sure Londoners get a fair deal from developers, and commission and construct new homes”.

Homes for Londoners

In our new report, Homes for Londoners: A blueprint for how the Mayor can deliver the homes London needs, undertaken with law firm Dentons, we call on the Mayor to make HfL a “muscular” body.

The report says that City Hall must evolve from being a body that sets strategies and distributes a small amount of government money to fund housebuilding, to instead become a more muscular body; one that rolls up its sleeves and  acquires land from other public bodies, and use its compulsory purchase powers, where appropriate, to help get more homes built.

The report sets out a blueprint for what HfL should concentrate on, from the perspective of London business.

It argues that HfL’s primary role must be getting public land ready for development. Where practical, HfL should assemble sites around core public land-holdings; set out an acceptable level of density for development; and offer them to the market with clear requirements about the mix of tenures required. Securing a new pipeline of developable land owned by, or the disposal of which is controlled by, HfL provides the Mayor with the ability to directly influence and enhance housebuilding.

Beyond the primary role of getting a pipeline of public land ready for development the report also calls for HfL to:

  • provide additional resource to support London’s boroughs in planning for and delivering more homes, and work to influence policy in London and central government to support an increase in housebuilding;
  • direct GLA resources, as far as possible, towards transport and wider infrastructure investment which support the delivery of new homes;
  • forge a new relationship with housing associations to increase supply and coordinate the pan-London delivery of affordable homes;
  • use the limited funds available to support HfL’s public land programme and to more generally offer financial assistance to support a greater variety of home providers in London; and,

In response to the report, James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing at the GLA said

“We have started to work with local authorities, developers, housing associations and others to get building the new homes that Londoners so desperately need – including those on public land within the Mayor’s control.

We are working closely with London First, and very much welcome the suggestions in their report about setting up ‘Homes for Londoners’. Many of the ideas in the report are in line with plans we have been taking forward since the election, and we will continue to work with London First as we take our proposals forward.”

The report was launched at a Fifty Thousand Homes event which  also launched the findings of a survey of London employers led by Grant Thornton looking at the views of business on the housing crisis and actions being taken to support staff with their housing needs.

London employers cover

The findings reveal that eight in ten businesses (84%) believe that high housing costs pose a risk to the capital’s economic growth. Nearly half (48%) of the employers surveyed have taken steps to help their workforce deal with London’s high housing costs.

Seven in ten (72%) are concerned about the impact it has on employee recruitment and retention, with one in five firms (21%) considering moving their business out of the capital to cope with the cost pressures.

The report is part of an inquiry led by Grant Thornton (working with London First) to explore ways employers, the public sector and housebuilders can work together to improve the availability and affordability of housing in London.

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