London mayoral manifestos from the Liberal Democrats and Green Party both promise to deliver 200,000 new homes for the capital.
Both are also keen to support local authorities fighting opaque viability assessments from developers, and want to tweak the London Plan. And they agree on the continuation of the Olympic precept, an additional sum on council tax, to help pay for the new homes needed.
Sian Berry, Green Party candidate, says her 50,000 new homes a year would come “through a combination of new build and redeveloping empty properties” and the establishment of a not for profit housing company. Half of them would be built affordably by councils, small developers, communities and housing associations, she says.
Unsurprisingly, the new properties would need to be built to the highest environmental standards, while existing homes would also receive support to improve insulation.
There will be greater clarity on what affordable housing is, with a new definition of a “living rent”. Berry also wants to see a greater focus on delivering homes that are appropriate for people in the later stages of life.
Liberal Democrat hopeful Caroline Pidgeon has proposed creating a City Hall building company, alongside a skills academy to train the skilled construction workers needed. She says the mix would be 50,000 council homes for rent, and 150,000 market homes for sale, rent or rent to buy.
The developments could be funded by continuing the Olympic Games precept – the £20 per year council tax levy – investing further billions. She also wants to help boroughs to “use the greater financial muscle they now have through their housing revenue accounts to restart their own building programmes”.
Pidgeon’s “Land for Londoners” scheme would classify 3,745ha of land as brownfield, of which over 20% is owned by the private sector. She promises to “use the mayor’s planning powers more effectively to encourage home building”.
She adds: “The current mayor scrapped his predecessor’s target that 50% of new homes should be affordable but the previous mayor’s fixed target was often not met anyway. We
believe developers need to know what is expected of them, so we will set a benchmark guideline that half of housing should be affordable.”
Among other initiatives, Pidgeon suggests expanding the Seaside and Country Homes Scheme, which was first established in the 1960s to support Londoners retiring to live outside the capital. This, she says, currently has four times the level of activity it can cope with.
Pidgeon also says she would require local authorities to publish viability assessments, and introduce a new land use class, for affordable housing. “This means land values better reflect wider social and economic priorities of boroughs.”
On tall buildings, Pidgeon proposes a “Skyline Commission” to advise on skyscraper design and placement, with the intention of adding new viewing corridors to further protect views.
LPA Perspective: There seems to be a good degree of agreement between the Green and Lib Dem candidates across a range of planning and housing policies.
Pidgeon has the benefit of being an assembly member, having a clearer oversight of what can – and cannot – be done inside City Hall. Her manifesto is therefore more pragmatic, and likely to be more easily costed.
In contrast, Berry’s ideas are more radical. While there are plenty of sensible ideas in there, you will also find too many that are simply too much for many rational Londoners to run with; and potentially damaging to the capital’s economy. Our favourite? Closing London City Airport and building housing all over the runway.