London Mayoral Election; the front runners

On the fifth of May, we, the people of London, will vote to elect a new London Mayor. While many will be sad to see the ever-popular Boris Johnson retire into his well-earned “bucolic existence”, there are five main candidates competing to replace him. And the two front-runners, Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan, both have the London housing market at the top of the agenda. 

Zac Goldsmith Sadiq Khan
I will build 50,000 homes a year by the end of 2020 Homes for Londoners to rent and buy
I will help more Londoners on average salaries get the keys to their first home Supporting renters and homeowners
I will build houses people want to live in and are proud to call their home  
I will secure homes for London's 2 million renters   

 

Zac Goldsmith, the conservative candidate, plans on building 50,000 homes per year by the end of 2020. His overarching aim is to help more Londoners on average salaries get the keys to their first home and securing more homes for London’s two million renters. Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate, aims to build “more” homes for Londoners to rent and buy. This is largely through the underlying principle of a 50% affordable housing policy across London. He also wants to support renters through a variety of different schemes such as the creation of a not-for-profit lettings agency.

It is no secret that London suffers from an overt housing crisis – not enough homes being built, some of the highest rents and house prices globally. So yes, the ‘why’ is self-evident. The issue with both candidates is that neither adequately addresses the ‘how’ on a consistent basis.

Zac Goldsmith does attempt to answer this ‘how’ with some of his policies – for example, he plans on making homes built on TfL land ring-fenced land available only for purchase by Londoners. Any priority for domestic buyers is unequivocally positive. Sadiq touches upon this same topic, highlighting the need for more domestic buyers within the market, however he does not offer up any version of ‘how’ he plans to curb the current influx of overseas investment. Indeed, it is questionable how wise that would be in context of the wider economy anyway.

In terms of Zac’s 50,000 new homes per year, he states that he aims to release public sector land in order to build them. That’s all very well and good, but wasn’t that one of Boris’ aims too? We have all witnessed how fraught with difficulties that idea is when trying to turn it into a reality. He also plans to create a Local Authority Housing Fund, with the potential to significantly boost the supply of housing. Which is great – except councils already have the power to build and they simply don’t use it. There would need to be a significant incentive put in place to ensure that changed.

Sadiq Khan plans to target London’s affordability, with his plan to create a 50% affordable housing policy across London – although he contradicts himself by saying that he will allow a level of flexibility. While that would certainly address the capital’s need for significant increases in affordable housing delivery, in reality it is unviable. Attempting to implement this would lead to a fall in housing delivery and a drop in the quality of those homes that were delivered. In addition, his proposed rental caps, while certainly making renting more affordable, will lower standards across the sector, limiting both viability and investment into the sector.

Of course there are some things that both candidates agree on; both contradict their plans to build a significant volume of new homes by pledging to only regenerate estates with full resident support. While this inclusive approach is positive on a social level, typically residents are opposed to new development and that, in turn, stalls housing delivery. This would make delivery of all the new homes they are both promising all the more improbable. Similarly, both candidates have been firm in their stance that there will be no development on London’s greenbelt.

However, as might be expected, neither of these two candidates comes equipped with a silver bullet. Zac Goldsmith certainly has a more extensive proposal – although, like Sadiq Khan, the overall policies are often opaque and sometimes contradictory. Even if some of the policies are embraced, progress will be slow.