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Housing Advocates Issue Plea To Build "Outwards" And "Upwards" To Solve London Crisis


3 min read

Advocates for housing reform have insisted that solving London's housing crisis requires building "outwards" and "upwards", as the government prepares to announce details of new measures to tackle a shortage of homes in the capital.

Earlier this week, housing secretary Michael Gove said London needs 52,000 new homes a year to keep up with demand. His London Plan report setting out a plan for London stated government was building as few as 30,000 new properties every 12 months. 

Households in the capital are becoming more cramped, as the average household size increased by 2.7 per cent from 2011 to 2021, according to Savills, a real estate company. Affordability is also a key issue, with the average London house price is worth £534,000, which is the highest of any region in the UK, according to the ONS. 

More planning reforms are expected to be announced imminently. It is understood that there will be a focus on building more homes in East London.

Freddie Poser, Director of Priced Out, told PoliticsHome the capital has an "acute" housing shortage and leaves renters in "unsafe and unaffordable accommodation and prices out the vast majority of first time buyers." He added East London was a perfect example of an area which "desperately needs more homes".

"East London should see both densification and expansion where areas well served by public transport build up to support more homes and underutilised brownfield is brought back into productive use," he explained. 

"The Government should also look to connect more areas in the east to public transport, as they did with Crossrail. Upgrades to the DLR and Bakerloo amongst others could enable tens of thousands of new homes, well connected to the city."

The Government has also been keen to stress the need to densify housing in London and other UK cities, which it claimed would enhance the quality of life and improve productivity. 

Gove said that with a 10 per cent increase in the population of Britain's cities means "potentially unlocking a £20 billion increase in UK GDP".

A think tank source specialising in housing policy told PoliticsHome they agreed with densifying London and building more houses in the capital, but felt London needs to build "outwards" as well as "upwards".

Debate over whether building should be allowed on the Green Belt in order to free up extra space for housing has been especially fraught in recent years. The aim of the Green Belt is to prevent "urban sprawl" and keep types of land permanently open, according to the House of Commons. London and 13 other areas are hemmed in by the Green Belt which prevents developers from expanding the size of the city except in special circumstances.  

Another think tank source told PoliticsHome that Gove's proposals were "good" but needed to go further to "solve the country's housing problems". They added London has had low density housing stock since World War Two, and by increasing the density of housing could create a "huge amount" of new homes.

However, some critics such as Labour MP Gareth Thomas claimed the Government should also focus on supporting people living in "low rent Council or cooperative housing". 

"Any announcement that doesn’t include significant funding for low rent Council or cooperative housing is unlikely to make any significant difference to London’s housing crisis," he added. 

Gove on Monday said the Government owed it to "Londoners, and to the nation’s economic well-being, to get this right". 

Gove added the Government's ambition in London is a "Docklands 2.0", which includes an "eastward extension along the Thames of the original Heseltine vision".

"Taking in the regeneration of Charlton Riverside and Thamesmead in the south, and the area around Beckton and Silvertown to the north, tens of thousands of new homes can be created. Beautiful, well-connected homes and new landscaped parkland are integral to our vision – all sympathetic to London’s best traditions," he said.

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