A majority of Londoners support new housing being built in their neighbourhoods and nearly three times as many say they would look favourably on borough council candidates who promise more housebuilding as say the opposite, according to new research.
A poll by YouGov of over 1,000 Londoners for business group London First and property giant Grosvenor Britain and Ireland found that 57% of them agree that more homes should be built in their local areas, including 63% of those in Inner London.
YouGov also found potential backing for “pro-housing” candidates seeking election on 3 May among 43% of the London public compared with just 15% who said a pro-housing stance would deter them from giving their support. Backing was particularly high (47%) among 18-24 year-old voters and residents of Central London boroughs (51%).
The findings contrast markedly with the perceptions of London councillors themselves, with only 29% of the 200 spoken to by YouGov believing that backing more home-building would enhance voter support for them and 28% believing it would lose them support. Lack of public funding was the main obstacle to building more homes cited by 42% of them, followed by lack of land which was blamed by 20%.
There was widespread agreement among the survey sample that London has a shortage of homes, with 74% of it subscribing to that view. Among those who rent their homes, the figure was an even higher 80%. This subgroup also placed housing at the top of their list of electoral issues, with 43% agreeing that it will help them decide how to vote, followed by candidates’ attitudes to Brexit (42%) and the NHS (37%).
For all voters surveyed, Brexit topped the list of issues on 44%, with the NHS second with 39% and housing third on 31%. Of these, on only housing provision falls significantly within the powers of local authorities. However, only 13% of Londoners consider their council as having principal responsibility for housing delivery. National government was named by 45% and property developers by only 4%.
Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said the YouGov findings showed “it is clear there are votes to be won in unblocking London’s housebuilding hold ups. Londoners are struggling to find a place to live and business can’t afford the continued drain of people away from our capital”. She urged politicians to “finally get to grips with our housing crisis – we need more money, more land to develop and better ways to build”.
Craig McWilliam, chief executive of Grosvenor Britain and Ireland, called for “the continual delivery of high quality housing in all its forms,” describing this as “vital to London’s success”. Urging political canvassing on the issue to be translated into action, he decried as “self-defeating” what he called “the descent of the housing debate into a standoff between developers and communities”, urging political leaders to “cut through that debate” and seeking “pragmatism, honesty and creativity from all sides”.
The poll found that opposition to more housebuilding tended to diminish if the planned homes were affordable, and if new or improved schools, health facilities or libraries or better transport links were included in the development plans. Opposition was greatest among current homeowners, running at 40% compared with just 155 of renters.