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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Nowhere is our housing crisis felt more keenly than in London


In March 2016 the London Housing Commission, established to look in detail at a way forward for housing in the capital, published a report which recommended a series of focused measures to help build 50,000 new homes every year.

image of buildings reflected onto windowLord Kerslake, who chaired the commission, will explore where we are six months later in our executive briefing on 23 November. We spoke to Lord Kerslake ahead of the event about the scale of the capital’s housing problem and whether we are any closer to solving it.

Just how serious is the housing shortage in London?

It’s no exaggeration to call it a crisis. We know that we need to build more homes across the UK but in London the problem is particularly severe. The London Housing Commission concluded we need 50,000 new homes a year and we’re currently building less than half of that. It’s very clear that we need more homes that people can afford and we need them now. I think the 50,000 figure is still achievable but it will need much more radical action than is currently planned.

What do we need to put that right?

We need a combination of proactive work from the mayor but also recognition from government that London needs a major devolution package to give it the powers and support to take control of the issue. Without the latter it simply won’t be possible to make a lasting change.

Planning for example is one significant issue that is impacting on house building in the capital. The mayor’s London plan needs to be given the same status as the National Planning Policy Framework with new powers to make sure boroughs identify enough land for housing. London should also be able to set its own planning fees.

The London Housing Commission outlined a raft of other measures to get us to 50,000 new homes a year, but at the heart of those recommendations lies a fundamental need for more power and freedom for London.

The government’s language on housing seems to have changed in recent weeks - is this promising for London?

I think there are promising signs and there does seem to be recognition there that we need more homes of all tenure types. But of course the detail will be crucial and even if we see a shift towards building a substantial number of new affordable homes across the country, London will still need focused measures to deal with the severity of the housing crisis here.

Has there been any notable change since the London Housing Commission’s report?

I think the new London mayor and his deputy James Murray have made a good start. They’ve been proactive in setting out their ambition on affordability and releasing the Transport for London land for development is a positive move.

There is still a lot more to do though and the situation is made more challenging by the fact there are a couple of headwinds we are operating in.

Brexit is the first. I think the uncertainty surrounding its long-term impact has affected the risk appetite of some developers and that will of course impact on new supply.

Then there’s the Housing and Planning Act, which it’s very clear won’t work in London in its current form. We still don't have the detail regulations. At the moment you have a bit of a 'coat hanger' and it remains to be seen what will end up on it. The uncertainty around this is also unsettling and that inevitably impacts on delivery.

The housing problem in London is not going away, it’s very clear we need to find a way to build a significant number of new homes and we need to do it now. 

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Executive briefing - free for members: Join Lord Kerslake on 23 November in London, as he considers how the mayor's housing plans are progressing since he took office, how the measures in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 will impact on London and how the mayor is addressing the affordability issue for people struggling to access housing in the capital. Find out more

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