Housing tops the list of major concerns for Londoners. The capital’s population has grown 55% faster during Boris Johnson’s premiership than it did under Ken Livingstone, according to the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), and it’s estimated that 50,000 new homes will need to be built each year to meet growing demand.
Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith’s plans for meeting this annual target will both fail, however, if they don’t change their policies on building homes on greenbelt land. That’s according to a new report released by the CPS, titled Who Will Fix London’s Housing Crisis?
The report, which analyses the different elements of both candidates’ housing policy, says developing property on brownfield sites alone — land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes — won’t solve the problem of supply, as up to 22% of land within London’s boundaries is listed as greenbelt — restricted areas surrounding the city.
Daniel Mahoney, who wrote the report, said: ” The priority for addressing London’s housing crisis should be the development of private and public sector brownfield sites. However, this alone is unlikely to solve London’s housing shortage, given that 22% of land within London’s boundaries is currently classified as green belt.”
He added: “A number of studies have highlighted the need to consider some parts of London’s green belt for development. Around 60% of London’s green belt is within 2km of an existing rail or tube station, providing some ideal spaces for housing development.”
The report is highly-critical of a host of Labour candidate Sadiq Khan’s policy proposals, particularly his plan to impose caps in order to tackle the capital’s soaring rent costs. Homeless charity Shelter published research last week which suggested the overwhelming majority of private rental properties in central London are unaffordable for people on average incomes.
Mahoney, however, claims rent caps would act as a disincentive for landlords, as many would look to sell their properties in order to avoid financial losses. This, in turn, would actually lead to a decline in the number of houses available on the market.
Likewise, the Tooting MP’s proposal to set an “affordable housing target” of 50% is described as “inefficient and counterproductive,” as according to the report, a similar scheme introduced by London’s last Labour mayor Ken Livingstone developed property of which only 34% was deemed affordable.
Khan’s promise to freeze tube and bus fares for four years has been one of the most talked about subjects in the run-up to the May 5 mayoral election. Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith has described it as “reckless” and says it would jeopardise crucial investment that is needed to unlock future housing and infrastructure projects.
The CPS report shares Goldsmith’s concerns. It says Khan’s promise to freeze fares would starve Transport for London of necessary investment, and as a result “hamper” expansion to the network, as well as the delivery of housing projects that would come with it.
According to the results of the Opinium poll, Londoners trusted Khan more than Goldsmith to handle a number of key areas, including housing.
Both candidates came under fire earlier this month for failing to attend a debate on housing and infrastructure, despite the fact that both prioritised London’s housing crisis as a key challenge in their manifestos.
The CPS report in full can be read here.