New survey finds that Londoners strongly support building more homes

by Dave Hill

On Twitter, Geography Jim, a self-described housing policy wonk and number cruncher at the Greater London Authority, has drawn attention to new findings about Britons’ attitudes to new homes being built in their local areas.

The YouGov survey for the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England indicates that 49% of Londoners either “strongly” or “tend to” support this, compared with just 22% who strongly or tend to oppose it.

This is a higher level of support than among counterparts in any other English region or Wales, with only Scots, on 50% and 20% respectively, topping us. The next most eager part of Britain was the North, where a pretty distant 40% were in favour and a sizeable 30% against.

And yet, as Geography Jim points out, the fact that more than twice as many Londoners support more homes being built as oppose it is not reflected in the survey findings about their engagements with the planning process.

Despite only 22% of Londoners opposing more homes being built near them, a striking 16% of the YouGov sample said they had opposed a planning application for a housing development by commenting on it and 18% said they had done so by signing a petition against one.

The figures for those commenting or signing petitions in support of a proposed housing development were, by contrast very small: just 5% and 3%. The (weighted) London component of the survey sample isn’t huge – 661 – but neither is it small enough to dismiss. It may be that Londoners who want more new homes built need to campaign for them with greater fervour. However, pro-development campaigner HackneyYIMBY observes that “planning applications are not referendums. Surely the broader point is that NIMBYs are now very unlikely to pose any political threat”. A good point.

The survey also provides  clues about why Londoners oppose or support new housing proposals. The biggest opposition concerns were: increased pressure on local infrastructure, services and facilities: negative impacts on the character of their area; and dislike of the design of the proposed new dwellings. Supporters majored on the simple need for more housing, making use of derelict sites or unused buildings and, in interesting contrast to opponents, approving of proposed designs.

There are also intriguing responses to a question about the types of new housing that have been been built locally in the past five years. For example, when asked which types had not been providing in sufficient quantities, the largest numbers of Londoners picked the two types of sub-market priced homes at the far ends of that wide spectrum: homes for social rent and starter homes, which Sadiq Khan does not regard as “genuinely affordable”.

Private affordable housing for rent came a close third, with small family homes to rent and to buy next on the list of types thought under-provided. Shared ownership (“part rent, part buy”), which the Mayor is far more keen on as a solution for middle-income Londoners, scored quite low, though this might reflect relatively low awareness of the product or understanding of how it works, which many recognise remains a problem.

The survey also sought opinions about impacts of new housing on neighbourhoods and the quality of the jobs being done by developers and different layers of government on providing new housing. See all the survey results here.

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