The London Mayor and housing – what’s the progress so far?

The London Mayor and housing – what’s the progress so far?

Tepilo takes a look at what Sadiq Khan has achieved on housing in his first nine months as London Mayor.

Sadiq Khan made a big deal of housing in his campaign to become London Mayor. Now, nearly nine months after he took over the reins at City Hall, it’s time to look at what he’s achieved so far.

It’s been a busy honeymoon period for the Labour mayor, with strikes, the long-awaited implementation of the Night Tube, controversy over the Garden Bridge and London’s pollution levels, and the introduction of his flagship Hopper fare scheme.

But what about housing? First off, it’s a good idea to remind ourselves of what exactly Sadiq Khan was proposing in the lead-up to the mayoral elections last May. He promised to build 80,000 new homes each year, with first refusal on shared ownership homes for those Londoners struggling to get on the property ladder. He also pledged to set up “Homes for Londoners”, a team based at City Hall with the task of ensuring that half of all new homes in the capital would be genuinely affordable.

What’s more, he promised a crackdown on ‘Buy to Leave’ and greater use of public land (in particular the land owned by Transport for London) for housing purposes. Renting-wise, he pledged to create a London-wide not-for-profit letting agency, as well as heavy investment in social and council housing. Khan himself was brought up on a council estate in Tooting and has long been a strong advocate for an increase in this type of housing.

Khan has only been in the hotseat for a relatively short space of time, so it wouldn’t be fair to judge his record on housing after less than a year in the job. He will need time to push through all his ambitious goals. What, though, has he implemented already?

Money for genuinely affordable homes

Khan has made plenty of noise about affordable homes and he backed these words up when securing a £3 billion housing fund from the government last November. In Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement, it was revealed that £3.15 billion will be passed from the Treasury to City Hall to help pay for at least 90,000 new homes over six years.

This money will be spent in three ways, according to City Hall’s Affordable Homes Programme 2016-21 funding guidance, which was released in the same month as the Autumn Statement. Londoners who would otherwise struggle to rent or buy will be aided by a new Shared Ownership initiative (for those who can’t afford to purchase a home on the open market), a London Living Rent scheme (where people on average incomes are charged below-market rents to help them save for a deposit) and London Affordable Rent (helping out those on low incomes).

In the long-run, Khan has the ambitious aim to ensure half of all new homes in London are genuinely affordable. At the very least, it shouldn’t be hard to improve on recent figures and the figures seen overall in Boris Johnson’s tenure. According to findings from the Greater London Authority (GLA), only 13% of new homes in London in 2014/15 were affordable. Meanwhile, just 63,637 affordable homes were built between 2009/10 and 2014/15.

A streamlined development process

The mayor doesn’t just want affordable homes to come from housing associations and schemes; he also wants the private sector to help out.  As such, City Hall will streamline approvals for those developments that meet affordability criteria. Khan, eager to encourage private developers and house-builders to build cheaper homes, has said that planned projects which include 35% or more affordable housing without public subsidies will be subject to fewer barriers and checks.

In addition, the Labour man is keen to fulfil his promise to make better use of the land that already belongs to City Hall, especially that belonging to Transport for London. Surplus public land will, as much as possible, be made available for affordable housing, while development projects on TfL land will be fast-tracked.

The Homes for Londoners board

Khan has stayed true to his word and set up a “Homes for Londoners” team at City Hall, tasked with increasing the levels of housebuilding in the capital. He has taken a hands-on approach, chairing the board that meets every quarter which includes representatives from TfL, the GLA, London’s largest housing associations, a number of London councils and the property sector itself.

The board has control over a number of key areas, including overall housing delivery across London, land held by the Mayor and other public bodies, and housing, planning and infrastructure coordination.

A Housing and Investment Policy Panel, fronted by Deputy Mayor James Murray, has also been set up to meet on a monthly basis and drive forward the work of the Homes for Londoners board.

A positive start

While Khan has come good on his proposals for a Homes for Londoners board, a push for more affordable housing and an effort to make better use of surplus public land, there has been no concrete information about his London-wide not-for-profit letting agency or his wider plans for the capital’s private rented sector, nor have there been any signs of the proposed crackdown on the practice of Buy to Leave.

However, the mayor hasn’t been in term for very long and has already taken a number of decisive steps to make homes in London more affordable to buy and rent. Whether his long-term plans bear fruit remains to be seen, but some of the early indications are positive.