Which Mayoral Candidate Can Solve London's Housing Crisis?

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 66 months ago
Which Mayoral Candidate Can Solve London's Housing Crisis?
Photo by Lee Jackson from the Londonist Flickr pool.

London is in the grip of a housing crisis. In 2007 the average rent in this city was around £850 per month; it's now about £1,670 per month. In 2008 the average price paid by a first time buyer here was £271,000. In December 2015, it was £419,000. Over 50,000 households are officially classed as homeless.

London's mayor has control over a budget to build lower cost homes and the city's planning policy. So which candidate would solve the problem? Let's take a look.

Sadiq Khan

Khan promises a new body at City Hall — Homes for Londoners — which will bring together all the councils, developers, residents' associations etc, and encourage 'joined-up thinking'.

He has a target that 50% of all new homes in London should be genuinely affordable to rent or buy. Ken Livingstone had the same target; he often fell short but Khan believes it's better to aim high and fail than aim low and still fail. However, a right-wing think tank warns of the possibility that developers will concentrate on the top end to subsidise lower cost homes, ignoring the middle.

Khan would want homes built on public land to be offered to Londoners first, though we'd like to know a bit more about who will qualify as a 'Londoner'. There's also not much information about how he'd fund these homes; it costs around £110k to subsidise a genuinely low-cost home. That money needs to come from somewhere.

For those who rent, Khan promises a London Living Rent, based on a third of average local wages. He would also create a lettings agency that wouldn't charge 'rip off' fees, representing decent landlords.

On estate regeneration, he says it should only happen with resident support and where demolition would result in the no loss of social housing.

Zac Goldsmith

Goldsmith says he'll be building 50,000 new homes a year by 2020; note that's not the same as building 50,000 homes a year for each year of his mayoralty. He's also not being prescriptive about what kind of homes they will be — how many for sale or rent? At what price levels?

One thing that councils are crying out for is more expert planners to properly assess planning applications. Goldsmith would create a team of 'flying planners' to help out councils to speed up decisions. He also wants to get smaller developers building on smaller sites that may be of less interest to the giant companies.

He recognises there's a lack of skilled construction workers available to actually build these homes, so would set up an academy to train young Londoners.

All you can afford? Photo by Scott Baldock from the Londonist Flickr pool

Like Khan, Goldsmith thinks homes built on public land should be offered first to Londoners — who he defines as having lived and worked in London for at least three years. He also has plans for a new type of mortgage to make it easier to buy off-plan.

He rejects the idea of set targets for affordable homes on the basis that it could make too many sites unviable. Instead, he favours a case-by-case approach — and naming and shaming developers who wriggle out of affordable homes commitments.

Goldsmith has more of a focus on homes for those on middle incomes, rather than social housing. He also backs right-to-buy for housing associations, but believes the deal to replace each sold home with two more will work. (We have our doubts.) He is also of the opinion that estate regeneration should only happen with resident support.

If you rent, you'd be able to access a loan for your deposit, and a Goldsmith mayoralty would support build to rent. But that's about your lot.

Caroline Pidgeon

Pidgeon's main policy is to build 200,000 homes over four years, 50,000 of which would be council rent. She plans to fund this by setting a new budget in May that would claw back the part of the council tax that was being used to fund the Olympics, and was scrapped this financial year. We can't find anyone to give us a definitive yes or no about whether that's possible (bloody purdah), but we are meeting considerable scepticism.

She shares Khan's view that half of new housing should be affordable, and like Goldsmith says she'd set up an academy to train up new construction workers — and says it was her idea first.

For renters, she wants to extend mandatory landlord registration, work to offer longer tenancies and clamp down on letting agent fees.

Sian Berry

Berry also plans to build 50,000 homes a year (in case you hadn't guessed, there's been a campaign to get candidates to sign up to this pledge), but rather than having it all centralised at City Hall she'd rather help small builders, co-operatives and housing associations get access to smaller plots of land to develop low-cost homes.

She would set up a unit at City Hall to help communities on estates develop their own regeneration plans and opposes estate demolition.

If you rent, she would set up a Renters' Union to give tenants information and support with difficult situations and bad landlords, and to campaign for more rights from government — like rent control. She also supports a register of landlords in London.

Peter Whittle

The UKIP candidate's manifesto isn't online yet, but he does recognise the problem of housing in London. Whittle's chief method of addressing it is to control immigration which he believes would curb demand.

It wouldn't, however, deal with the fact that Londoners are living longer and in smaller households. Nor does it change the fact that if we curb immigration, someone still has to do the jobs. Even if they're 'native Brits' they have to live somewhere.

So, which would solve the housing crisis?

Erm, none of them by themselves. If Londonist was making its ideal housing manifesto, we'd nick various bits from various candidates and stitch them all together.

  • We like the idea of targets for affordable housing, but accept that there needs to flexibility. Something certainly needs to change from the current situation where developments can get away with less than 25%.
  • More new homes built — yes please. But even if the land's available at reasonable prices (there's room for at least 130,000 new homes on public land; but that's less than three years' supply), there's still the issue of who's going to pay for them. This is one of the reasons private developers have been gobbling up land and then crying about viability — they're the ones with the cash. We have no answer to this and neither do the candidates, really.
  • The whole country faces a massive shortage of construction workers, so an academy is an excellent idea.
  • As is the idea for a central team of planning experts to help out councils.
  • There are lots of small sites in London that aren't being built on because big developers aren't interested. Helping smaller companies, and more socially-orientated builders, to get access to these sites could be the answer.
  • The mayor has very little power over rents, but if City Hall built its own homes to let out, it would have control over what it charged. Let's see more of that.
  • We also want to see more regulation of landlords and longer tenancies, to rebalance the relationship between tenant and landlord — currently skewed far too much in favour of the owner.

Last Updated 18 April 2016