London needs to double the number of houses being built

The London Housing Commission report has called for a devolution deal to confront the capital's housing crisis


The London Housing Commission report, published yesterday, reveals how London faces unprecedented housing challenges. Chief among these challenges is providing at least 50,000 affordable home each year – double the number currently being built.

The London Housing Commission, chaired by former Head of the Civil Service Lord Kerslake, has been deliberating on London’s housing crisis since last year, and published a preliminary report in December. This final report, launched in the presence of London mayoral hopefuls Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, outlined the consequences of not providing enough affordable housing in the capital:

“Businesses struggle to recruit and retain staff. More and more people live in overcrowded social and rented homes. Housing-induced poverty remains stubbornly high. And the government is spending billions of pounds on housing benefit to keep a roof over renters’ heads and provide temporary accommodation for homeless families.”

The report called for the next mayor of London and the 33 London boroughs to join forces with central government to agree a devolution deal for housing since significantly better decisions can be made locally to confront the capital’s housing crisis. In return, the mayor and the London boroughs would commit to doubling the number of affordable homes built annually by 2020.

The report’s key recommendations are that:


  • London should be exempt from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) with the mayor given powers to force London boroughs to increase their housing supply.


  • The Greater London Authority and the boroughs should be able to borrow more for house building and to improve infrastructure.


  • The mayor should issue London-wide guidance on negotiating affordable housing with developers and do a deal with housing associations to double their house building in exchange for a pipeline of new sites.
  • The affordable housing requirement of planning negotiations should be simplified to boost affordable house building.


  • The volume and speed of planning approvals should be accelerated by the boroughs and through the creation of a London planning inspectorate.


  • More public land should be set aside for affordable and private rented housing.


  • Communities should be supported to undertake their own neighbourhood planning and to identify regeneration opportunities.


  • The smaller house building sector should be developed by offering them first refusal on set-aside public sites.


  • Stamp duty on housing transactions should be devolved to London to support new house building.


  • The London boroughs should be able to levy council tax on developments that fail to meet agreed building targets.


  • The boroughs should be able to create their own private landlord licensing schemes.

Similar housing-based initiatives are being rolled-out in the Northern Powerhouse and for the proposed West Midlands Combined Authority to ensure that devolved housing policies, funding and management sit alongside economic regeneration.

Kevin Gulliver is Director of Birmingham-based research charity the Human City Institute, former Chair of the Centre for Community Research, and part of the SHOUT save social housing campaign. He writes in a personal capacity. 

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