LSE report: London needs ‘common plan of action’ across housing sector

by Dave Hill

London needs the key participants across its house-building sector to work together more productively if a sustained increase in its supply of housing is to be achieved, according to a new report by academics at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Drawing on the findings of a three-and-a-half year research programme, Christine Whitehead, Kath Scanlon and Fanny Blanc of LSE London identify a general “commitment to serious change” on the part of all “the main players”, who have come to “share the broad goal of a step change in housing supply”, but also a need to resolve remaining tensions and to move from agreement to long-term implementation.

While noting that overall housing output increased substantially in 2016/17, the report stresses that this is still not enough and may not last, and suggests that, amid an array of policy initiatives and continuing barriers to housing development, “this may be the time to the sort out how best to implement that commitment”.

The authors record that the atmosphere between different parts of the housing sector has “almost completed changed” from the “quite toxic” one they encountered when embarking on their work in 2014, and set out progress in contentious areas such as calculating financial viability, build-to-rent developments, innovation in construction methods and the need for Green Belt and property tax reform.

To capitalise on this, they recommend that “a serious London housing summit” be held, bringing together “all the relevant actors to debate the reasons behind the supply unresponsiveness, negotiate common goals and – importantly – publicly commit to a common plan of action”. Any initial list of participants would include central government at ministerial level, the Mayor of London, London’s boroughs, private developers, housing associations, landowners, financiers and representatives of housing tenants and other civil society groups.

The report characterises London’s current housing crisis as “a result of the city’s success” and maintains that addressing it more effectively is essential to meeting the UK’s continuing need for a “well-operating capital city that grasps opportunities and attracts in-migrants who can improve productivity and wellbeing”.

The report concludes that, “New housing should be directed not just at those who can easily afford to pay or at those who qualify for social and affordable housing, but especially at younger households struggling to find somewhere to live that is affordable, of a reasonable standard and not overcrowded”. It argues that, “A specific programme to house such households, with industry and City support, could draw in additional resources

The launch of the report, held at the LSE Old Building in Houghton Street, was attended by leading figures from the housing delivery sector, representatives of think tanks, London boroughs and national government and other luminaries from London academia. It included a debate chaired by Professor Tony Travers, which On London will provide coverage of in the coming days.

LSE London’s report, entitled A Sustainable Increase in London’s Housing Supply? can be read in full via here.

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