22 May 2018

The Mayor's Housing Strategy

by Chris Rumsey

Today, after 2,000 plus responses, Sadiq Khan has published his housing strategy for London. Has anything changed since the draft was published in September last year and who is the publication really for? 

The headlines remain the same - there is no difference from the narrative set out by the Mayor since his election two years ago - the target of 65,000 homes per year stays. The targets, to be delivered by local councils, are of course reinforced in the draft London Plan. In addition the opportunity to be able to bid for grant at rates of up to £100,000 per unit to build new homes will be welcomed by many of the new Housing Leads across the capital, especially in those boroughs with the highest housing targets. Also expected was the requirement for residential ballots on estates earmarked for demolition as part of estate regeneration projects. This is now national Labour Party policy, more on this later.

The Mayor has also set the challenge to the Government to enable greater devolution not just in London but across the whole country. This means the new Metro-Mayors would have increased power over housing delivery (especially affordable). Despite being of the same political colours as the Government, don’t be surprised when Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, makes the same point in the coming few days. The Mayor has been quick to point out throughout the document that addressing the challenge is open to those far beyond the traditional development sector. This will challenge our industry to think again about how and what we deliver inside the M25.

But the one expected change that hasn’t come was the redefinition of affordable housing set at 80% of market rates, a policy that was established by his Conservative predecessor. Already the Green Party have been quick to be criticise, but that’s not who the Mayor has to fear.

As touched upon by my colleague Christian Cosby last week, with the local elections are out the way, the starting gun has been fired for the mayoral elections. Now less than two years to go until 7th May 2020, Sadiq’s first hurdle will be his own reselection by the Labour Party. Labour’s current position on housing runs through the document like a stick of sea-side rock; today’s publication is for a wider audience than the current membership of the London Labour Party but don’t underestimate what a key influence they were in its construction and publication.

In normal times the once safe Conservative borough of Redbridge would be a key target for the party to win back, however the political wind hasn’t changed direction. Instead the Tories are focusing their time and energy to keep hold of the council seats they still have.

Unlike the rest of the capital there will be some local boundary changes within the borough that make it slightly easier for the Tories to retain a strong opposition. Like many first term Labour councils, their campaign is focused on retaining the marginal wards such as Hainault rather than going all out to capture the new wards of South Woodford and Churchfields.

Expect Labour to increase its percentage of the vote in the south and the popularity of local MP Wes Streeting to help Labour in the north, although this is unlikely to transcend into significant gains. As Momentum failed to make any real inroads in candidate selection, the Labour Group will remain pragmatic therefore expect the redevelopment of Ilford Town Centre to carry on at pace and an emboldened Labour Leadership will look to deliver its housing targets across the borough.

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