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Capital Homes – New responses to London’s housing crisis

This series of papers seeks to inform a fresh start for housing delivery in London. They capture the discussions from four high-level roundtables which brought together academics, policymakers, planners and civil society organisations to identify areas of consensus and develop bold proposals for the next mayoral term.

The Capital Homes papers explore four interlinked issues:

These papers will be followed by a detailed manifesto to inform the 2020 mayoral election.

London’s housing challenges

Building more homes is vital to addressing London’s housing challenges. For years, supply has fallen below need, contributing to a growing affordability crisis, as housing costs have risen faster than incomes. Over time, this has created a particular challenge for low to middle income Londoners, squeezing living standards and contributing to poverty in the capital.

While there is consensus around the need to build more homes, this has not translated into delivery levels that meet current targets, let alone those set in the new Draft London Plan.

In the long run, we believe that delivering more homes will improve affordability in the capital. However, this isn’t a quick fix and driving down prices won’t happen overnight. As such, delivery must be focused on providing sub-market products which can ease immediate affordability challenges for Londoners.

A growing affordability challenge

Historically, housing in London has been more expensive than the rest of the UK. However, in recent years, the affordability gap has widened. In 2018, house prices in London were 13 times the median gross annual earnings compared to an average of eight times in the rest of England; this has risen from 8.4 in London and 7.1 in England in 2007.

Housing costs contributing to poverty and a strain on living standard

Before housing costs, the median weekly income in London is the second highest in the UK, but after considering housing costs it falls below the UK average. High housing costs put a strain on many Londoners. In 2015/16 rent for a two-bedroomed flat in inner London cost an average of 78 per cent of gross monthly earnings, and more than half of Londoners living in poverty were living in a working family (58 per cent).

The Mayor’s delivery targets are ambitious but demonstrate some of the challenges

To address issues with supply, and the knock-on impact on affordability, the Mayor has set a target of building 65,000 new homes a year in the capital over the next ten years. However, just 40,000 new homes were built in 2017 – the highest number in recent decades – and 35,000 in 2018. These levels of house building fall short of what is needed and building these numbers of homes, while also creating and sustaining successful places, will require significant changes, particularly in outer London.

But it’s not just about increasing supply, the delivery of sub-market housing is key…

In 2018/19 affordable housing starts were at 14,544 – their highest level since 2010/11 (14,544). However, this still sits at the lower end of the Mayor’s affordable home target of between 14,500-19,000 starts a year.

Furthermore, almost half of London’s need is for social rent, but only 14 per cent of all home starts so far in this mayoral term are for social rented homes, demonstrating the challenges of providing the homes Londoners need across all tenures.

 

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