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I don't think that anyone who works or lives in London can argue with the three tests that the Commission set itself in setting out a programme for the next Mayor of London, the 33 London Boroughs and central government. It is quite clear that we need to double the rate of housebuilding in London, and then sustain that increased level until at least 2030, by which time London's population is forecast to have increased by a further 1.5 million. We also need to ensure that these new homes are affordable and occupied by Londoners and we need to radically improve the private rented offer given the greatly enhanced level of demand in London.
My immediate interest in the report, pending a fuller review, is in its proposals for achieving, and sustaining such a significant increase in housing production. It is undoubtedly right in saying that the London Plan puts too much emphasis on production from a relatively small number of large sites. We recently secured one of these, Beam Park in Dagenham (pictured above), and whilst through our partnership with the GLA, L&Q and the London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham and Havering, we will seek to maximise the rate of housing outputs through a combination of affordable, market sale and market rent, it is unlikely these markets will support production of much more than 250-300 homes a year.
So we have to find ways of generating lots of homes right across London.
The report is also right to focus on the need for many more effective interventions from more agencies, including local authorities, smaller housebuilders, housing associations and institutional investors.
There are some encouraging signs that this is starting to happen. For example, TfL's emerging underground station programme illustrates the sheer scale of potential once a major agency looks beyond its immediate operational requirements. What we now need is not only for TfL to ensure that this programme is extended across the whole of its network as soon as possible; we also need other major public bodies like the NHS to adopt a similar approach. There are also increasingly strong signs that London's local authorities are doing likewise, albeit spurred on in part by reductions in central government financial support. And the G15 group of housing associations have recently committed to doubling their output.
It will not be easy. For example, the ability to generate a lot more homes through regeneration of local authority and housing association estates, as indicated in Savill's report to the Cabinet Office in January, is unlikely to happen unless existing residents support those proposals. Also financial viability must be achieved in the absence of grant - something that in outer London is often likely to be challenging. But it certainly can be done; the principle for the Alma Estate regeneration scheme in Enfield was supported by no less than 84% of the estate's residents - but it cannot be taken for granted.
All in all, the report has made an extremely useful contribution to finding solutions to the housing problems that London, and Londoners, face.
We are ideally placed to create affordable and private housing opportunities for our local authority and housing association partners in London. Please contact us for further information.
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