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London First calls for action and ‘political will’ over housing crisis

London First has called for “clear action and political will” from central government and the Greater London Authority to solve the capital’s housing crisis.  

London First housing taskforce chairman Roger Bright insisted that “nothing will happen [to solve London’s housing shortage] without clear leadership and political will”.

He was speaking at the launch of the business group’s latest housing report, Home Truths: 12 Steps to Solving London’s Housing Crisis [see attached file].

The report was put together by London First members from across the housing supply chain.

It noted London’s population had grown by around a million people over the last 10 years, with only 202,400 new homes built over the same period.

The capital’s population is forecast to increase by a further one million people by 2021, according to London First, but latest building figures show only 18,380 new homes built in 2012/13.

It laid out four challenges that face the sector, with 12 recommendations of how it believed they could be tackled, including planning reforms and new kinds of market tenure, such as the private rented sector.

The report also called for the creation of new communities in the south west and north east of London to meet growing demand.

Speaking on a panel at the launch, Richard Blakeway, deputy mayor for housing, land and property, said he supported for the report’s key recommendation to create a ‘Domesday book’ and said there was scope for low density development outside London.

However, he added that there was a greater challenge around changing “snobby” public attitude on moving away from central London.  

London First chief executive Baroness Jo Valentine said: “The mayor of London has the political authority and the powers at his finger-tips to build new suburbs.”

“Boris Johnson now needs to show the national politicians – who can’t even agree on publishing a white paper on new towns – how it’s done.”

Berkeley Group, group managing director Rob Perrins, who sits on the London First housing taskforce, said that the private developers had the ability to deliver the houses London needs.

However, he stressed the importance of having adequate land supply and said the current five years land supply was not enough. He added that developers needed 10 year land supply.

The panel also noted the potential role PRS could play in delivering new homes for London.

Mr Blakeway highlighted a recent deal struck between the GLA and Bellway Homes to deliver 318 PRS homes at Barking Riverside.

He was speaking the evening before the government announced 36 schemes that had qualified for the second round of its Build to Rent fund, aimed at helping developers build large scale, quality homes specifically for PRS.

However the deputy mayor said that on a larger scale, PRS would not be filled by traditional housebuilders and added that housing associations such as Peabody, whose chief executive Stephen Howlett also sits on the London First housing taskforce, had a bigger role to play in the sector.

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