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Tory MP Wants To Build A Million More Homes In London


5 min read

Conservative MP Ranil Jayawardena, leader of the Conservative Growth Group (CGG), would like to see a million more homes built in London over the next parliament and has called for the pledge to be included in the party's next General Election manifesto.

Jayawardena told PoliticsHome he believes London has space for 500,000 homes on air rights over railways, which is the space directly above train and tube stations. He added that 300,000 more properties could be built on brownfield land, as well as creating 300,000 new homes through the existing regeneration of council estates.

This would lead to a 10 per cent surplus on Jayawardena's proposed target of a million homes in the capital. 

The former cabinet minister, who briefly served as environment secretary during Liz Truss's short lived government, said ambitious building plans could provide '"quick wins" for the Government.

He said the proposals should be put in to the Conservative manifesto at the next general election, which will be devised and written months before the campaign. An election is due to take place before the end of next year. 

Housing policy is likely to feature heavily in both the Labour and Conservative platforms, as house prices and the cost of rent continues to soar. Housing is the fifth most important issue to the electorate and remains more of a priority than education, crime and defence, according to Statista. 

"If you look at the 25 to 34 age group, they want to buy a home... they want to buy in London first before they have families," he explained.

He claimed current high house prices in London have distorted the housing market and have forced young people to buy in areas they do not want to live - pushing property prices up further in towns and rural areas. The average house price in the capital is more than £500,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Since 2005 the average property price in London has risen from £232,422 to £533,687. Data found that the most affordable areas in London were more expensive than the least affordable districts in the North East of England. Typical properties in London are now at least 12 times the average salary in Britain. 

"It's really bad for everyone. If you are using big ticket things that people can see. Okay, it might not be perfect. It might not solve all the problems everywhere. But there is a clear promise of a million homes in London, those are the sorts of things people can get behind."

Jayawardena identified tube links in the capital such as the District and Waterloo lines which are suitable for more homes and increasing housing density. 

Former cabinet minister Ranil Jayawardena has called for a million more homes to be built in London
Former cabinet minister Ranil Jayawardena has called for one million homes to be built in London (Alamy)

"The District Line tracks which are often open above, you can see the light when you're in the train. The stations are often very badly utilised. You could build above them. 

"There's a lot of national rail as well. Coming in from Waterloo, where most of my constituents come in, the whole Waterloo throat is really wide. There's no development at all. Above it you could build tens of thousands of homes along that route over stations and indeed between stations. This is what other countries do."

"We need a clearer view on the areas that people want to live, actually analyse the markets. People want to live in London. It's a story as old as time, people move to cities, it's a perfectly natural thing. Cities are where we need to build the homes."

Britain has a backlog of 4.3million homes missing from the national housing market, according to the think tank Centre for Cities. Its research found it would take 50 years to fill the current housing deficit even if the Government met its current target of 300,000 homes a year. 

Average house prices remain eight times higher than the average salary in the UK, according to the ONS. It stated housing affordability has worsened in every local authority, with London the worst hit. 

Simon Clarke, the levelling-up Secretary under Truss, who remains vocal on the issue of housing, told PoliticsHome the Government has to be firm with MPs from big cities such as London and tell them more housebuilding "is needed in your patch".

"There's no running away from that. In the end, there are many issues with the UK housing sector, but the fundamental NIMBYish tendencies in some communities just need to be confronted and overcome. 

"House prices relative to incomes are the most in 150 years. This is a social disaster. It's an economic disaster. It's a political disaster for the Conservative Party if it continues."

Housebuilding has become a major dividing line within the Conservative Party since the party came to power in 2010. Planning reform proposals which have been put forward by successive governments have been turned down by backbench rebellions.

In November, almost 50 Tory backbenchers forced the Government to scrap mandatory housebuilding targets. Rebels included former cabinet ministers Theresa Villiers, Damian Green, Priti Patel and Esther McVey. 

Following multiple revolts housebuilding has fallen at its fastest rate since May 2020 when Britain was in lockdown.

The average age of a first time buyer is two years older than it was a decade ago, according to building society Halifax. Meanwhile research from King’s College London concluded existing policies were simply “propping up the broken housing market” and had disproportionately helped older voters. They believed this had led to the Conservatives having “unusually low levels of support” from younger generations.

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