Few things are as important as a suitable home, but for many Londoners the type of home they want, and should reasonably be able to expect, is out of reach. In 2016, the gap between average house prices in London and the rest of the country reached a record high, and the private rental cost of a one-bedroom home in London is now more than the average for a three-bedroom home in any other English region. A housing market that only works for the very wealthy does not work for London.
The state of London’s housing market has implications for the makeup and diversity of the city. Affordable housing is central to allowing Londoners of all means and backgrounds to play their part in community life. Providing a range of high quality, well-designed, accessible homes is important to delivering Good Growth, ensuring that London remains a mixed and inclusive place in which people have a choice about where to live.
The lack of supply of the homes that Londoners need has played a significant role in London’s housing crisis. The 2017 London Strategic Housing Market Assessment has identified a significant overall need for housing, and for affordable housing in particular. London needs 66,000 new homes each year, for at least twenty years and evidence suggests that 43,000 of them should be genuinely affordable if the needs of Londoners are to be met. This supports the Mayor’s strategic target of 50 per cent of all new homes being genuinely affordable. 270,000 homes are in the planning pipeline, but delivery is not keeping pace.
The London Plan is able to look across the city to plan for the housing needs of all Londoners, treating London as a single housing market in a way that is not possible at a local level. In partnership with boroughs, the Mayor has undertaken a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment to identify where the homes London needs can be delivered. Ten-year housing targets have been established for every borough, alongside Opportunity Area plans for longer-term delivery where the potential for new homes is especially high. Boroughs can rely on these targets when developing their Development Plan documents and are not required to take account of nationally-derived local-level need figures.
To meet the growing need, London must seek to deliver new homes through every available means. Reusing large brownfield sites will remain crucial, although vacant plots are now scarce, and the scale and complexity of large former industrial sites makes delivery slow. Small sites in a range of locations can be developed more quickly, and enable smaller builders to enter the market. Building more housing as part of the development of town centres will also be important, providing homes in well-connected places that will help to sustain local communities.
There are a range of other measures that impact on the availability of homes. Existing homes must not be left empty, and have the potential to be brought back into use as affordable housing. The Build to Rent model can deliver homes for rent quickly. Boroughs should use all the tools at their disposal to ensure that homes are actually built after planning permissions are granted.
Delivering the housing London needs will be a huge challenge that will require everyone involved in the housing market to work together. Together with the London Housing Strategy, this London Plan establishes the framework that will make this possible, helping to make London a city that everyone who wants to can call home.
To create a housing market that works better for all Londoners, those involved in planning and development must:
- ensure that more homes are delivered.
- support the delivery of the strategic target of 50 per cent of all new homes being genuinely affordable.
- create mixed and inclusive communities, with good quality homes that meet high standards of design and provide for identified needs, including for specialist housing.
- identify and allocate a range of sites, including small sites, to deliver housing locally, supporting skilled precision-manufacturing that can increase the rate of building, and planning for all necessary supporting infrastructure from the outset.
- establish ambitious and achievable build-out rates at the planning stage, incentivising build-out milestones to help ensure that homes are built quickly and to reduce the likelihood of permissions being sought to sell land on at a higher value