London’s housing crisis threatens both its social sustainability and its long-term economic stability. The only real solution is to increase housing supply, so last year LSE London hosted a series of events and site visits under the banner Addressing the Supply Crisis. That project, funded by HEIF5, focused on the implications for London of the national election debate about housing. We identified London-specific barriers to increasing supply, and pointed to where change was needed. We provided both a careful analytic base and an independent environment where experts and practitioners could discuss ways forward—and over the course of the project we built immensely positive relationships with major stakeholders from industry, government and academia, and with politicians from across the political spectrum.
In 2015/16 we are looking more closely at what the mayor could do. In our current HEIF5 project, entitled Accelerating housing production in London, we will examine a range of strategies and instruments to accelerate the development of new housing, and will ask how the new mayor could use his/her powers in the new policy context to push more housing through the pipeline. Housing is the key issue in the mayoral campaign, and the GLA will play a major role in facilitating new housing delivery. All the candidates agree that London needs a step-change in construction, but often disagree about how to make that happen. And the many changes to national housing and planning policy that have been introduced since the national election will affect what can be achieved.
Over the next six months, LSE London will host a series of roundtables and site visits addressing four key topics that could affect the speed of housing production in London:
- the argument for greater planning certainty: negotiating affordable housing contributions on a site-by-site basis is costly for both local authority and developer, can lead to long delays, and is opaque to public scrutiny. What would a more certain system look like, and would it lead to more homes being built?
- Constructing Construction: looking at issues around the construction industry. Would it speed up delivery if more small and medium-sized builders were active in the London market? Are there other contractors who could increase capacity? What is the evidence for a skills bottleneck, and how can it be addressed? Is the more of a role for off-site construction?
- the effect of Housing Zones: there are now 20 Housing Zones in London, with more in the pipeline. Why the enthusiasm? What’s happening in Housing Zones that could inform practice elsewhere? Can Opportunity Zones also paly a part.
- Devo-London: looking at the case for devolution of more housing powers to the mayor. What powers would the mayor need to achieve a much larger step change in housing production—and what is the likelihood that they will be granted?
These invitation-only events will engage key individuals and focus on practical ways of overcoming the barriers to accelerating production. With this project we aim to influence and improve the debate leading up to the mayoral election and to provide a blueprint for the months following the election.