Opinion: We need Homes for London

London faces a severe housing crisis. This problem will only get worse as our population continues to grow. One million more people are expected to be living in London by 2030.

Everywhere I go, people tell me they are concerned about housing – whether it is the long housing waiting lists, unaffordably high private rents or rogue landlords who rip you off. We have young people unable to make their first steps on the property ladder; or under threat from unscrupulous landlords and too many families living in overcrowded housing. For the average Londoner it will take 13 years of saving before they can afford their first home.

1 in 5 rented households are overcrowded. That means nearly 400,000 children are affected, seriously impacting their school work and future life chances. This is unacceptable in modern Britain. Progress has been too slow and not always focused where the need is greatest – what Londoners need now is action. In Islington, Liberal Democrats built the first new council housing in 25 years and oversaw the successful regeneration of Market and Packington housing estates.

London Liberal Democrats will build 360,000 new homes in the capital – including bringing 50,000 empty homes back into use. We will create a London Housing Company as a way of matching public land with the necessary private investment. We will take the lead on clamping down on rogue landlords, providing boroughs with the support and resources they need to ensure effective intervention.

The Mayor of London actually has the powers to make a real difference – he just hasn’t shown effective political leadership. That’s why we need a body like Homes for London to work with the boroughs to make a real difference. Come May, I and my fellow Lib Dems on the London Assembly will be holding the Mayor to account on the issues that matter to Londoners. We need an organisation that is unashamed in putting housing at the centre of London’s agenda, with the necessary momentum to provide the housing solutions millions of Londoners are crying out for.

I am proud to fully support the aims of Shelter and its Homes for London campaign and look forward to working together in the future.

Bridget Fox, Liberal Democrat List Candidate for the London Assembly

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  • Richard Dean 26th Mar '12 - 11:28am

    Good luck. London is very crowded already. Where will these extra people come from, where will they work, how will they and their shopping needs travel? Would another solution – perhaps bettter one – be to encourage 1 million Londoners to move out of London by 2030?

  • LondonLiberal 26th Mar '12 - 12:12pm

    Bridget – thank you. Finally a policy from the Paddick campaign that isn’t about crime. Even better, it’s about a huge and burning issue, especially if you are under 40 and effectively locked out of home ownership in most of London unless you have an ineritance to draw upon.

    Boris actually has a reasonable record of housing delivery in the capital, given the powers he has had up until now. I’m not sure its massively realistic to promise to deliver 360,000 new homes unelss you’re talking about a very long delivery period ( i note there’s no ‘by when’ element to the proposal) but the willingness to do so is welcome.

    To answer Richard Dean, the ‘extra people’ are already here in many cases. Either still living at home, or living in small accommodation, or living with mates as they can’t afford to strike out on their own, even in their mid 30s. The rest will come from migration to the capital, both internally and from overseas, and from natural population growth, as Londoners tend to have bigger families (no doubt partly because of the high proportion of foreigners, many of whom come from cultures of having large families, who settle here). The London Plan envisdages that 40% of the new housing up to 2031 would be in the east sub-region of London, where there is the greatest capacity.

    Would it be better to encourage 1m ‘Londoners’ to move out? well, it would certainly be better to spread regional growth more evenly. How to effectively do that I don’t know.

    Anne – no one wants to ‘concrete over the midlands’. Such hyperbolic lanaguage does no one any favours.

  • Matthew Huntbach 26th Mar '12 - 12:58pm

    Yes, and what is the reaction of the commentariat and political elite to proposals for policies that will drive down house prices and hence make housing in London more affordable to those who need it and those whose living in London is needed if our city is to work effectively? It is to claim that such measures are BAD for London.

    I am FED UP with this continual supposition from those who rule us and those who talk about us that the only people who exist in London, or at least the only people who matter so the only people whose needs should be considered, are those living in million pound plus houses. The idea, repeated endlessly since some in our party proposed it, that the so-called “mansion tax” is “anti-London” illustrates so well this mentality. To the people who say this sort of thing, London means “people like us”, the top end of the wealth scale in a few of the more prosperous boroughs (or highly divided boroughs – Islington is a classic example).

    Taxation on property discourages underuse and the idea that it is more of an investment than a home. It also pulls back some of the wealth that has been sucked into housing at the expense of investment in enterprise, through people feeling forced to borrow more than they can comfortably afford to “get onto the housing ladder”.

    On “encouraging Londoners to move out” – what do you think happens to those who don’t have the fecklessness to accumulate enough social disaster points to get council housing, and don’t have a pool of inherited income from wealthy relatives to subsidise buying? They move out – or don’t have families. I am sorry to be blunt on the “fecklessness” point, but it is a source of huge fuming anger amongst the REAL middle (not the Daily Mail middle aka the top 5%) that they can neither afford to buy housing nor stand any chance of getting social housing, because what little social housing has survived the “right to buy” goes to people who, well, ask any long-term resident of a council estate or block of council flats just who the new tenants are these days. Why is it that the commentariat asks us to weep for the heirs of the owners of big houses who might have to pay a bit more tax to keep them, but has nothing at all to say about those thrown out of their community when they come of age and want to start a family because what was once the norm – you got a council house suited to your family needs – no longer exists?

  • Richard Dean 26th Mar '12 - 2:54pm

    I have lived in or near London for 60 years, and housing has been an issue all that time. Encouraging people to move away from London – or to not move into London – is a practical option that needs to be considered. Indeed it has been a policy for many years, with government offices moving out and lots of businessess deciding to headquarter outside London. I grew up in Harlow which is where many Londoners were re-housed to in the 50’s. There are also plenty of other places in the UK now where housing is much less of an issue, and places with affordable houses on the market and no buyers. Getting people out of London is good for London and good for everywhere else!

  • That’s fine, if the funding flows with those people. But suddenly forcing people out of London as this government is doing, with no preparation made for the extra costs in the places they move (the extra school places, hospital beds, rubbish collection and everything else that will be needed) is crazy. A lot of local authorities will get a shock within the next 12 months.

  • LondonLiberal 26th Mar '12 - 4:36pm

    i guess jobs need to move first, as there’s use building homes for people outside london if they have nothing to do once they move in (presumably an aspect of harlow’s problems?). however, untilt hat happens, we have a housing crisis of proportions that other towns and cities can only dream of (have nightmares more like). we still need to build decent affordable housing for londoners (and of course in all areas of hosuing need). we did that as a nation whilst decanting hundreds of thousands to new towns in the post-war period – and one could argue that it wasn’t always successful – and we still need to do it now.

  • Greater London Population (2009): 7.8 million
    Greater London Population (1939): 8.6 million

    Why do you think that the size of the population is related to house prices in Greater London – have you been taken in by the estate agents? If prices were set on the supply-side, as you suggest, then they should be cheaper than they were in 1939 in real terms. They’re obviously not cheaper and here’s why: (1) GDP growth created by the community since 1939 has been appropriated by land-owners as land isn’t taxed and income is (2) a huge, unsustainable, increase in demand caused by the private sector debt explosion of the last decade and (3) a massive increase in the income/wealth gap in London as a result of the neo-liberal policies of the last 30 years,

    I would suggest doing something about land taxation and increasing marginal tax rates on the rich.

  • Londonliberal 27th Mar '12 - 12:41am

    Steve- you’re confusing households with population- we have much smaller households now requiring more dwellings. Also many people were housed in densely populated slums, so the same area today in some cases houses fewer people. It’s not as simple as you think, sadly.

  • Richard Dean 27th Mar '12 - 12:54am

    I suspect that London will have a housing crisis whatever is done to solve it. Providing more houses will simply encourage more people to move to London. Like LondonLiberal says, the way to do it is to create an elsewhere that is attractive enough for people to leave.

    As part of that strategy, we might want to expand regional airports rather than make a new one in the Thames. We might want to move HS2 so that it connects regions rather than connecting London to regions. We might want to invest more in the regions and less in London. Maybe move Buckingham Palace to Yorkshire, Parliament to Hull.

  • @LondonLiberal

    I’m not confusing anything. Has the number of bedrooms in London decreased since 1939? I doubt it. There may be a greater number of households, but they are smaller, hence larger houses have been divided up into flats, etc. There is no more economic demand from two working single people wanting to buy two houses than there is for a couple of working people wanting to buy a single house. The problem with London’s housing is that there are vast number of houses that are underoccupied at one end of the spectrum and a (smaller) number of houses that are overoccupied at the other. The reason for this is, that once houses have been paid for they are very cheap to maintain. It becomes easy for people to hoard housing beyond their needs, thus creating artificial scarcity and driving up prices. London’s housing ‘shortage’ has more to do with such artificial scarcity.

    LVT is the answer (as a replacement for low and middle earners’ income tax).Given the bail-out of the City, LVT isn’t sufficient to restore the equilibrium in London – hence the need for higher taxes on high income also (would be useful in clawing back taxpayers’ money from the City as well).

    The ‘slums’ you referred to that were cleared in the post-war period were largely nothing of the sort. They were built to a higher standard the a good proportion of todays’ new builds.

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