October 23, 2015
The next political event in London is the Mayoral election next May.It is quite clear from the opening salvos that the main battleground will be Housing.I welcome this recognition of a very major problem, which is the lack of genuinely affordable housing. The problem is very acute in our area where it is difficult to buy a one bedroom flat for less than £250k or rent one for less than £1,000 a month. A huge proportion of local income disappears in mortgage or rent payments . Meanwhile what we are seeing being built is what can be sold, rather than what the community needs, which is genuinely affordable housing for young people and key workers. I spoke on this recently in a debate in Parliament. I noted a change in the public mood. When I started in 2005, people would ask me “What are you doing to stop development?”. Now people are asking “Where are our grandchildren going to live?” and “How can we build what we need to build without spoiling the area?”. There is no easy answer to this question but the starting point must be to recognise that across London we are not building enough homes. There is lots of brownfield land that could be developed, most of it in public ownership. There is plenty of money available to invest in infrastructure. There are new techniques for building decent homes in a cheaper way. All this needs to be harnessed with new energy. However we will fail if the planning system continues to impose bad development on areas. If I am right about the change in public sentiment, we have to give communities a bigger voice in making sure that we build more but we build well. I look forward to the debate.