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Deputy mayor: Housing zones will tackle London's crisis

London is in the midst of an unprecedented population boom.

This brings with it great economic and cultural benefits, but also additional demands on our infrastructure – including housing.

For 30 years there has been a failure to build enough homes to meet demand. While the latest figures for housebuilding are encouraging, much of this activity is concentrated in a handful of areas. 

Indeed, only four of London’s 33 boroughs recorded more than 1,000 residential starts last year.   

There are structural problems in our housing market that we need to address. The challenge is to get back to building levels not seen since the 1930s. 

Pioneering approach

The mayor’s recent housing strategy sets a new minimum target of 42,000 new homes a year, based on the land availability in London. 

While the Greater London Authority cannot meet this challenge alone, we can pioneer a range of new approaches in construction, such as expanding the sources of capital, number of providers and the products available.

“Unnecessary planning restrictions will be removed, development partners will be sought and loans and investment will be made available”

The 20 housing zones, building on the model and success of enterprise zones that transformed London’s docklands in the 1980s, are designed to harness the combined power of the public and private sectors.

The purpose is to stimulate activity where the market is taking longer to mature. City Hall will designate the zones based on areas submitted by boroughs, with most expected to be in the London Plan’s ‘opportunity areas’.

Unlocking supply

Unnecessary planning restrictions will be removed, development partners will be sought and public sector loans and investment will be made available to unlock unviable schemes and incentivise the delivery of new homes significantly more quickly than is possible elsewhere.  

“These zones will create desirable places to live, delivering more than 50,000 quality homes over the next decade”

A total of £400m of capital will be allocated by the GLA, and the authority will do whatever is necessary to unlock plots, as long as there are clear contractual commitments to build. 

These zones will create desirable places to live, delivering more than 50,000 quality homes over the next decade, alongside schools, shops and the services people need.

Range of housing

Intermediate housing, such as shared ownership, will be given priority as part of a wider effort to support 250,000 Londoners into affordable home ownership.

Purpose-built private rent, with the potential to accelerate build-out rates, will be promoted, expanding the work of City Hall to establish this product.

The designation of an enterprise zone in London’s docklands, together with private sector entrepreneurial zeal, fundamentally shifted the balance of real estate through the creation of Canary Wharf.

The new housing zones will be the next crop of large-scale sites to follow in the wake of Nine Elms, Greenwich Peninsula and Old Oak Common.

Only with this sort of focus and innovation will we build enough homes to support the capital’s economy.

Richard Blakeway is the deputy mayor for housing, land and property

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