With rising property prices, shrinking floor space and lack of provision threatening to push ‘ordinary’ people out of the Capital, housing has already been set up as the central issue for next year’s London Mayoral elections.
Regardless of who is selected as the candidate it is already clear that Labour believe winning the argument on housing is key to winning back City Hall. To win the argument they must provide a convincing and deliverable plan to address the problems, not just spend the next 10 months highlighting what those problems are.
There is political capital to be made from the public perception that developers have failed to deliver homes for ordinary Londoners and on issues such as social and affordable housing provision and off-plan selling to foreign investors.
Trying to tap into this, though, is not without its risks. Whatever the perception of developers may be there has to be a recognition that the housing crisis cannot be solved without their co-operation. Whoever succeeds Boris Johnson will have to build a strong working partnership with developers – victimising the sector for the sake of the campaign is not likely to be an approach which ‘delivers for Londoners’.
Although the candidates are able to stand unified on certain housing issues, cracks are already appearing.
David Lammy has raised eyebrows by promoting the need for a review of London’s greenbelt, whilst frontrunner Tessa Jowell has also faced criticism over her support for the conversion of the former Olympic Park into homes.
However, despite the differences in opinion, it is rapidly becoming clear that the Labour Mayoral manifesto will commit to certain issues in one way or another:
- A homes delivery agency – utilising public land to build social and affordable housing, a policy touted in one form or another by all the candidates.
- Lobbying the Government for the introduction of a Land Value Tax, retention of business rates and other related property taxes.
- Tackling affordability – Sadiq Khan has made great noise around the need to link affordability to wages not markets.
- Taking on developers – viability statements, social housing provision and off plan buying will all come under attack.
Whoever is selected as candidate will feel they have a mandate to take on developers and to vocally condemn the state of the London Housing Market. However, this issue cannot and will not see improvement without collaboration between Mayor and private sector. This can’t just be about grandstanding and promising to ‘deliver’ or to ‘create’ for Londoners; it has to be about developing a plan that works – for residents, boroughs and even developers.