From building thousands of new homes to freezing tube fares. The new Mayor has an ambitious programme for the next four years. We provide an analysis of some of his key pledges.
Portland’s Insight: Provision of new affordable housing is the top priority for the new Mayor. However every political party since 2006 has pledged to tackle “the housing crisis” with few able to follow through in any meaningful way. Whether Mayor Khan will be able to deliver thousands of new homes a year will depend on factors largely outside of his control. Firstly how much funding he can secure from a Conservative Chancellor, whether he can encourage TfL, councils and other public bodies to speed up the release of land for development and whether he is prepared to build on London’s much cherished Green Belt, despite the political ramifications that this will bring. While his target of 50% affordable housing on new developments is ambitious, it’s worth remembering that this target was introduced by Ken Livingstone in 2000. Its efficacy will depend on the extent to which the Mayor and London councils are prepared to enforce it.
His second big pledge, a four year freeze on TfL fares, is one Zac Goldsmith would not match during the election campaign – an indication of the difficulty he will have in delivering it. While sources inside TfL are extremely sceptical of the likelihood in delivering a four year freeze, Labour know they have traction with arguments around the cost of living in the capital. As such there will likely be battles between the Mayor’s office and TfL chiefs in order to identify savings that will help deliver this promise.
Finally, many businesses will be interested in his commitment around increasing the London Living Wage and whether business rate relief to small business will encourage take up.
Portland’s Insight: Mayor Khan has set himself an ambitious target to deliver new homes and is setting up a new team to help him. In order to deliver more housing he will need to secure extra funding from a Conservative Chancellor and speed up the release of public land for development, both of which will prove challenging. His target of 50% affordable housing, while ambitious, is likely to remain an aspiration as anything more concrete will impose huge costs on developers and scare away investment. Pledging to protect London’s Green Belt, while politically expedient, gives him fewer options in terms of where he can build. A reluctance to build on green field sites will mean the target will have to be met by building “up” so one can expect the profile of the capital to continue to change as more tall buildings are approved in order to meet housing targets.
Many of his pledges – first dibs for Londoners, protection against basement excavations and poor doors – can be seen to address concerns that have risen relatively recently in the capital and will each face their own challenges when implemented at a local level. How, for example, will a local authority remove a “poor door” if it has been requested by the RSL provider?
Portland’s Insight: The other key theme of the Mayor’s pledges around housing is the acknowledgement of the growth of London’s private rented sector. Like Berlin and New York, long-term renting, as opposed to ownership, is becoming an increasingly common form of tenure in London. Commitments to set up a London-wide lettings agency and introduce a licensing scheme for landlords can be seen as attempts to bring better regulation to this sector and protect tenants’ rights. A London Living Rent at a third of average wage levels will also be a popular alternative to the Government’s definition of affordable housing, however given that the Government has increasingly shifted the support for new affordable development away from capital subsidies and towards tenants’ rents, landlords may struggle to raise the necessary funding to build.
Portland’s Insight: Sadiq Khan ran his campaign on a promise to become the “most pro-business Mayor ever” seeking to break away from his party’s poor image on their approach to business. Policies to lobby Government for looser Visa restrictions and his pro-European stance should be popular in the City.
The pledge to deliver a “real” London Living Wage will be key to many businesses in the capital. The Mayor will be able to implement this through GLA and TfL procurement which will undoubtedly have an impact down the supply chain. However it remains to be seen whether the offer of small business-rate relief will be enough to encourage small businesses to pay the London Living Wage.
London’s poor connectivity and lack of business space is now a direct drag on growth. Pressure will be placed on developers to retain commercial space where possible and the boroughs will be encouraged to reject conversions from residential. Tech and digital infrastructure can expect extra support with the new Mayor helping providers to access public assets to improve the broadband and mobile network.
Portland’s Insight: The new Mayor’s landmark transport pledge is to freeze TfL transport fares for four years. Fares rose steadily under Boris Johnson and Labour know they have traction with arguments around the cost of living in the capital. Officers at TfL are extremely sceptical about delivering a four year freeze without it impacting on essential investment elsewhere, however, Team Khan are confident they can challenge TfL to find efficiencies in a budget that has enjoyed considerable protection in recent years.
Mayor Khan might have more luck than his predecessor in delivering the Night Tube given his trade union credentials and he is also keen to continue Boris Johnson’s investment in cycling infrastructure. Though unpopular with motorists and relatively underused so far, cycle superhighways are seen as the best way to encourage take up of cycling and tackle the dual issues of congestion and air quality – something the Congestion Charge failed to do.
Portland’s Insight: The new Mayor has stated that he is opposed to the expansion of Heathrow and will continue to campaign against it if the Government chooses it over Gatwick. However his position on this has changed, indicating it is motivated more by political expediency than a principled objection. The major challenge for London remains transport capacity and as such there are a number of high profile schemes in the pipeline including Crossrail 2 and 3 and extensions to tube services. While there will be a battle between the Mayor and the Conservative Government about how these major infrastructure projects are paid for, the planned tube and rail projects are likely to go ahead given the benefits they will bring to the UK as a whole and so there will present opportunities for businesses through the supply chain as well as for developers.
Cycling infrastructure will continue to be a priority for the Mayor’s office which will mean more roadworks and traffic jams as more segregated cycle lanes are installed.
Portland’s Insight: The growth of London’s tech sector in recent years has been one of the success stories of the capital. However, despite Government enthusiasm and investment, internationally London’s Silicon Roundabout is still seen as a poor relation to New York and Silicon Valley. The new Mayor has said it is his ambition to overtake the US and make London a world-leading tech hub.
In order to do this he will address the skills and infrastructure shortages that are barriers to growth. His Skills for Londoners taskforce, is designed to enable young people, particularly women, to gain key digital skills, improving the talent pipeline into London’s tech sector. In terms of infrastructure, the new Mayor has committed to treat digital infrastructure with the same status as other key public utilities and help providers to access public assets to improve the broadband and mobile network.
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