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Promising to build new homes will unlock support in London elections

  • Polling ahead of 3 May elections finds 43% of London’s voters are more favourable towards a candidate who backs new homes
  • Housing is key election battleground but candidates underestimate public support for new homes
  • Majority of Londoners agree more homes need to be built in their neighbourhood

New polling from London First and Grosvenor Britain & Ireland1 has found that housing is a key electoral battleground ahead of the London local elections, with over four in ten Londoners saying it will influence how they vote on 3 May.

The polling reveals that, for the millions of Londoners who rent2, housing is the key electoral issue with 43% agreeing it will help them decide how to vote, just ahead of Brexit (42%) and a candidates’ position on the NHS (37%).

London’s housing crisis is widely recognised by voters, with nearly three quarters of Londoners (74%) agreeing there’s a shortage of homes in the capital, rising to 80% among people who rent.

For the political parties, getting to grips with the housing crisis promises to unlock electoral success, with 43% of voters saying they would be more favourable towards a local politician who promises to build more homes in their area, compared to just 15% who say it would make them less favourable.

The potential backing for a pro-housing candidate rises to nearly half of voters aged 18-24 (47%) and over half (51%) of voters in central London boroughs.

The research also spoke to 200 of London’s councillors about the key issues ahead of polling day3 and revealed many candidates are under-estimating public support for building more homes. Only 29% of London’s existing councillors believe they’d see more support if they backed more homes, compared with 43% of the public who would be more favourable towards a pro-building candidate. For 28% of councillors they’d expect less public support, compared with 15% of the public who said they’d be less favourable.

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said: “It’s clear there are votes to be won in unblocking London’s housebuilding hold ups. Londoners are struggling to find a place to live and business can’t afford the continued drain of people away from our capital. Now is the time for our politicians to finally get to grips with the housing crisis – we need more money, more land to develop and better ways to build.”

Craig McWilliam, Chief Executive, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, added: “The continual delivery of high quality housing in all its forms is vital to London’s success, particularly if we are to attract and retain talent. It’s critical that canvassing on this key battleground translates into action. The descent of the housing debate into a standoff between developers and communities is self-defeating. We need bold public sector leadership to cut through that debate, as well as private sector investment at scale. Overcoming London’s housing shortage will demand enormous pragmatism, honesty and creativity from all sides.”

The impact of the housing crisis on Londoners

Among those who agree there is a housing shortage in their area, a staggering four out of ten people say the result is being unable to find somewhere to call home, either to rent (41%) or buy (38%). For nearly a third (29%), the high cost of housing is making it difficult to keep up with rent payments and a quarter (22%) are living in over-crowded properties. Nearly one in ten (9%) say either they or close friends and family have been stuck sofa-surfing.

NIMBY TO YIMBY?

There are some challenges ahead for a pro-building local politician. While the overwhelming majority of Londoners agree there is a housing shortage (74%), that falls to 57% who think the shortage is in their local area.

The good news is most people (57%) agree there should be more homes built in their local area, rising to nearly two thirds of people in inner London (63%).

Delivering more affordable homes, new or improved community facilities or better transport links are seen as key to winning local backing for developments. 38% of those who said there shouldn’t be more homes in their local area said they’d be more supportive if building meant more affordable homes; 36% said it would take new or improved schools, libraries or health facilities; and 35% said better transport links.

Only one in four people (26%) believe their local area shouldn’t see any new homes built, with resistance to new development more pronounced amongst people who already own their own homes (40%, compared to just 15% of renters).

 

 

 

1 YouGov online survey of 1043 Londoners aged 18+. Fieldwork conducted between 13th – 19th March 2018 and figures weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+)

2 London First: ‘Everything you need to know about build to rent in London’, September 2017

3 YouGov representative survey of 200 London councillors. Fieldwork conducted between 15th March – 2nd April 2018

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