As we come to the end of Boris’ tenure as Mayor of London, the capital is in very different shape to where we were when he stepped in in 2008. Large infrastructure schemes such as Crossrail are well underway, the Olympics have come and gone and the term ‘Boris Bike’ is now a quintessential feature of life in the capital.
Through all the successes I can’t help but feel that housing issues in the capital have become more pronounced and we are now at a crossroads as we approach another election and another chance for Londoners to flex their democratic muscles.
In terms of housing policy, it’s interesting that we have two very different solutions proposed to try and tackle the housing crisis in London. Zac Goldsmith wants to build more housing and Sadiq Khan wants to make the current stock more affordable. Unfortunately I think neither policy alone is going to make any significant headway. More creative and pragmatic solutions need to be put forward as otherwise we are going to see more of the same.
Prices will continue to be more out of kilter with wages and I think the gap between property owners and those who don’t own property will continue to grow. The targets banded around for new housing are, in my opinion, unrealistic given the constraints of the planning process and the general attitude existing homeowners have towards new building happening in their area. Almost everyone is in agreement that we need to build more housing, but no one wants it to happen in their back yard.
At Regentsmead we were invited last year to speak with two separate governmental departments about the housing crisis. I have to admit I was slightly underwhelmed with some of the proposals that were mooted.
More schemes such as permitted development and unlocking public land will help to an extent, but we need an overhaul of the current system on both the supply and the demand side if we are going to make any genuine progress. Help to Buy has also provided some much needed assistance to those that are in touching distance of putting down a reasonable deposit for their first home, however our experience at Regentsmead has shown that this can at times cause property transactions to become painfully slow.
Whilst it’s very much part of the politician’s vernacular to come out with general statements such as “we need more housing” or “more affordable housing” I think that these pre-election soundbites are probably going to be more geared towards gaining a spot at city hall rather than making genuine change for the better. This should make it harder for voters to decide who the real deal is. In the meantime we are still seeing the prospect of owning a home anywhere near the capital a more unrealistic proposition for the younger generation of Londoners and whoever makes it into city hall needs to try something different as more of the same isn’t going to work.