Sadiq Khan highlights land purchase role and ‘London Model’ goal for renters as he publishes draft housing strategy

by Dave Hill

A better deal for private renters and improving the supply of land for “genuinely affordable” new homes were placed at the heart of Sadiq Khan’s housing policies today as he published the draft of his London Housing Strategy.

Describing providing “all Londoners with a decent and affordable home” as “the greatest challenge facing our city today”, the London Mayor announced during a visit to Tower Hamlets (pictured) his intention to invest £250m of City Hall funds in purchasing and preparing land for new and affordable homes and a plan to develop a “London Model” of rights and obligations agreed by renters and landlords to improve the capital’s growing private renting sector (PRS).

Land purchased by the mayor will be sold to homebuilders intending to construct the quantity and range of affordable homes Khan wants, and money made from this invested in further land. The Mayor says his Home for Londoners housing team will be reinforced with staff expert in identifying and negotiating land purchases. The guiding principle is to deploy mayoral funds and expertise more actively in order to enhance the supply of land available to housing associations and to councils.

The aim of the London Model for the PRS will be to update renting to recognise the need of renters for greater rent level stability and long term tenure security, especially the increasing number of households with children who rent privately in the city. The proposals will then be taken to national government with a view to securing changes in PRS policy.

Speaking at the Blackwall Reach development in the Isle of Dogs, which he has increased City Hall financial support for, Khan said the London Model was part of a range of reforms to the PRS his administration is working with in conjunction with landlords and tenants and lobbying national government for help with, including longer tenancies, inflation-linked rent rises and the “naming and shaming” of criminal landlords: “We’re hoping to persuade  government to buy into the London Model, because of the unique problems we have here and to give us the levers we need. If we get that, I’m confident we can improve the quality of tenancies that residents of London currently have.”

The draft housing strategy, the third precursor of seven final strategy documents Khan is required by law to produce, underlines that the Labour Mayor is taking a more interventionist approach to housing delivery than his Conservative predecessor Boris Johnson. He says his draft strategy “will start to rebalance housing supply in London” in the direction of 50% of new homes for sale or rent meeting his definition of “genuinely affordable” to Londoners on low and middle incomes, but stresses that national government “needs to play its part” if the capital is to achieve a step change.

In what appears to be a hint to Outer London boroughs, which can be resistant to large scale development, the draft strategy says that “London must build at higher densities and ensure that all parts of the city take their fair share of new homes”, though it also reiterates Khan’s election pledge to protect greenbelt land and other green spaces. Smaller sites in areas “that have traditionally contributed less to London’s supply of new homes” are given specific mention.

Addressing a calls long made by campaigners, the document promises that the Mayor will “offer packages of of support” to enable new types of housing suppliers to “complement the work of traditional private sector developers” and makes a pledge to help to close the construction skills gap, which the industry fears Brexit will widen.

It also reiterates Khan’s plan to have invested £3.15bn of grant funding from the government in 90,000 new affordable homes that he has a more stringent definition of what housing is “affordable” than the official government definition, confining his investment to homes “around social rent levels for Londoners on low incomes” and to two low cost home ownership tenures – London Living Rent and shared ownership – with the possible exception of any newer forms of affordable home he considers worthy of the description.

Welcoming the strategy, Jonathan Seager of business group London First emphasised the need for the Mayor to bring in new housing providers, particularly to deliver more build-to-rent developments that “give people a better choice of secure, long-term places to live”.

Paul Hackett, chair of the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations, said the group’s members would “will build 42,000 affordable homes in London by 2021” in its role as “the Mayor’s largest strategic partner”. He gave a particular welcome to Khan’s acknowledgement that “City Hall has a crucial role to play in securing the land needed to build the homes, which is the single biggest challenge to increasing supply”.

A three month consultation on the Mayor’s draft London Housing Strategy housing ends on 7 December. On London will provide a fuller analysis of the document later this week. 

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