Draft London Housing Strategy launched by Mayor

A draft London Housing Strategy has recently been launched by the Mayor of London.

Setting out plans to address the housing crisis in the city, the document released by Sadiq Khan also highlights the aim of providing Londoners with access to affordable property.

A key point raised by the Mayor is the urgency of the crisis, with an aim to tackle the problem sooner rather than later.

In addition to detailing his vision for affordable housing access, Khan also highlights the policies which he believes can enable these goals to be reached. A framework is also included in the strategy which elaborates on the timescale and sets out when certain targets are scheduled to be met. One of these is investing £3.15 billion into affordable housing in the city.

The overall plan set out by Khan is said to underpin five key priorities. These are:

  • Building homes for Londoners
  • Delivering homes which are genuinely affordable
  • Creating homes which are of high quality and inclusive neighbourhoods
  • A fairer deal for private renters and leaseholders
  • Addressing homelessness and helping rough sleepers.

Another key issue brought up in the strategy is the fall in the contribution of small sites over the last ten years. Focussing on challenging this, the plans highlight a new ‘Small Sites, Small Builders initiative’ will be launched by the Mayor in order to provide small builders, housing associations and community-led-organisations with support, as well as access to small publicly owned small sites.

Commenting on this was Barry Mortimer. The Director of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) highlighted the positive impact that a small-site focus could have on the existing housing crisis in London.

“If we’re to build the number of new homes Londoners need, we must urgently make much better use of the many existing small sites that are dotted all over London. In doing so, we will the strengthen the capacity of SME house builders to build more new homes and perhaps even attract some new SME firms into the market. FMB research has consistently shown that a lack of available and viable land is the main factor stunting the ability of small builders to deliver more homes. Indeed, over half of SME house builders believe that the number of small site opportunities is, if anything, decreasing.”

Mortimer added: “We therefore welcome strongly the Strategy’s proposal for a presumption in favour of appropriate residential development on small sites, which goes further than proposed changes to national policy as laid out in the Government’s Housing White Paper. The ‘Small Sites, Small Builders’ programme will also link up public land owners with small builders, which could make accessing public land easier for small firms. We also welcome moves which will mean that less of the Community Infrastructure Levy is payable upfront on small sites. This will really help with cash flow for smaller builders and make the economics of small scale development slightly easier.”

Mortimer concluded: “The London Housing Strategy therefore marks a step forward in empowering smaller house builders in London. In order to reach the 50,000 new homes London needs to build each year, this renewed emphasis on small sites is vital. However, all such progress could be undermined if the Mayor fails to protect small sites from onerous levels of developer contributions. National planning guidance states that planning obligations should not be sought from developments of ten units or fewer, but implementation of this policy in London is patchy at best. Unless the Mayor, and London Boroughs, recognise the need to minimise burdens on the very smallest developments, SME builders will continue to struggle to enter the market.”

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