8 October 2015

All change for London in 2016?

Following Sadiq Khan's surprise defeat of Tessa Jowell in the Labour Mayoral selection, the Labour MP for Tooting and once shadow Secretary of State for Justice looks to be in a straight fight with the Conservative frontrunner Zac Goldsmith, the current Conservative MP for Richmond Park known for his sound environmental credentials, opposition to Heathrow expansion and euroscepticism, to be London's next Mayor.

What with the need for affordable housing and fears over spiralling property prices in London (and the knock-on effect on London residents and businesses) never far away from the headlines, it is unsurprising that these issues are looking to be a key battleground on which the campaign is fought. But on what are each of the frontrunners focusing in these early days of the campaign and how may this affect the London property market?

Sadiq Khan states that he plans to make housing a priority if he succeeds in becoming mayor and has outlined a number of policies, including:

  • Establishing a 'New Homes Team' at City Hall to tackle London's housing shortage by acting as a developer, driving the building of new homes for social rent, London Living Rent and first time buyers and bringing forward land and investment for building;
  • Introducing a 50 per cent affordable housing target for any new development and using mayoral powers to prevent the increase in 'buy-to-leave' distorting the housing market;
  • Making available land owned by TfL and other public bodies for development by both the 'New Homes Team' and local councils and working with boroughs to identify all available brownfield land in both public and private ownership suitable for development;
  • Investing the 'unspent millions' in the Mayor's affordable homes fund and developing 'London Home Bonds' and pension fund investment in the London Housing market; and
  • Making badly needed changes to protect renters by introducing the 'London Living Rent' which would link rent to a third of average incomes, setting up a London-wide not-for-profit letting agency, naming and shaming bad landlords, setting up a landlord licensing scheme and campaigning for the power to limit or freeze rent rises in the private sector.

Zac Goldsmith marries his environmentalist stance with a desire to tackle London's problems with its infrastructure, housing supply and the affordability of London property for Londoners by:

  • Identifying the three basic tools needed for development in London: land, finance and planning;
  • Making the publically owned brownfield sites in London, particularly those owned by TfL, the NHS and the GLA, available for development in order to build 46,000 to 48,000 homes a year  to ensure that no greenbelt land is required for housebuilding; and
  • Setting up a London investment fund to attract investment that can be applied to help deliver the housing and improvements in infrastructure needed.

Although each candidate has presented their proposed policies according to their particular agenda, each has recognised that there is no hotter topic amongst Londoners than the need to address the shortage of affordable housing. There is of course a finite supply but there is suitable land all over London which could be transformed into the homes Londoners so sorely need.

It waits to be seen how these policies develop between now and the election in May of next year, but businesses and residents in London should be somewhat assured (albeit with the requisite pinch of salt to be taken with any politicians' proclamation) that both candidates are committed to promoting development and so addressing London's housing shortage.


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