Last year’s Census found that Greater London’s usual resident population had risen to 8.8 million people living in 3.4 million households. The population figure was probably an underestimate, due to many people leaving the capital temporarily because of Covid. Even so it represented an increase of 7.7% since the previous Census, conducted in 2011. Over the same ten year period the number of households had increased by only 4.8%, suggesting, in the words of the Greater London Authority’s latest Housing in London report, published in October, “a substantial increase in average household sizes” had taken place.
That seems to point to more homes being more crowded, and the most recent pre-pandemic estimate from the English Housing Survey, covered 2019/20, said that 9.2% of London households were overcrowded – meaning they had fewer bedrooms than they need to avoid “undesirable sharing” – compared with 8.2% in 2018/19. The GLA’s separate Survey of London echoed the English Housing Survey’s finding that the problem is most acute among Bangladeshi Londoners, low income Londoners and adults living in social housing.
There has been better news about homeless people in temporary accommodation arranged for them by London boroughs. As of March, the number stood at 56,460 people – shockingly high, but at least down from 60,101 in March 2021 and a mid-2020 peak of 62,650. A breakdown of the 56,460 homeless households shows that 38,160 of them included a total of 75,850 children. And 21,620 of the homeless households had been placed in dwellings outside of their home borough, which often isn’t ideal. An insight into how long a household can be homeless in the capital can be gained from the number accepted as statutorily homeless by boroughs in the first quarter of 2022 – 2,400, just a fraction of the overall total.
The year has seen net additions to London’s housing stock on course for about 40,000 homes, the vast majority newly built, in line with the average for recent years. The first quarter saw sales of new market homes in larger developments return to pre-pandemic levels. The majority were from Built to Rent providers or purchases using Help To Buy.
Financial year 2021/22 saw a big jump to 18,700 in the number of affordable homes of all types started with help from GLA funding initially provided by the government. As Sadiq Khan is unsurprisingly keen to point out, that is the largest number since 2012 when the distribution of affordable housing funds was devolved to the GLA.
The Mayor is also keen to draw attention to the fact that just over half of those starts – 9,700 – were homes for social rent or the nearly equivalent London Affordable Rent (though the same period saw 1,555 London council homes sold through the Right To Buy). The bulk of the rest were low cost home ownership dwellings. Southwark, where 2,900 affordable starts were recorded, was the borough with the highest number. Despite its successes, City Hall has acknowledged that seeing another 25,000 affordable homes started by next March to meet a target of 116,000 using the £4.82 billion received from Theresa May’s government in 2016 will be difficult.
There are just under 800,000 low cost rent homes owned by councils or housing associations in London, compared with around 950,000 homes for private rent, 800,000 owned outright and roughly a million being bought with a mortgage. The Housing In London report carries figures for empty homes in London drawn from government statistics for 2021. These show there were 87,700 empty homes in the capital in that year, of which 32,800 were recorded as empty for more than six months – less than 1% of London’s total housing stock.
Buying a house in London has remained extremely expensive. In the middle of this year, the average mortgage deposit was £148,000 and in July the average house price was £543,500 according to the UK House Price Index. Renting privately is still expensive too – a median of £1,450 a month as of March, ranging from £1,150 a month in Havering to £2,535 a month in Kensington & Chelsea.
There are countless dimensions to London’s housing picture and many issues to address. One that should not go unmentioned here is remediation work on high-rise buildings with aluminium composite material cladding systems – the type that burned at Grenfell. By July, 189 of the 256 identified had had the work completed. Of the 256, 81 are owned by social landlords, 162 are private blocks and 13 are student accommodation.
To close, Richard Brown’s tentative identification of an inner London “boomer belt” of people in their late fifties who might have bought houses in the 1990s when London prices were relatively cheap and appear minded to stay. London is still a young city, but its older population has been growing. What does that mean for the future of housing for the young? Maybe we’ll have a better idea this time next year.
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