• Housing teams revealed

A three part plan has been revealed by the mayor, to help improve housing delivery in the capital.
A Homes for Londoners board and a viability expert team have been set up; while the City Hall staff will undergo a “skills and capacity review” over the summer, to spot areas where it needs improvement.
The Homes for Londoners board will be chaired by the mayor, with deputy mayor for housing James Murray alongside him as deputy. Four borough leaders will be nominated by London Councils, while additional members will be the Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown, GLA executive director David Lunts, the chair of the g15 major housing associations’ organisation David Montague, and two members of the residential property sector.
The board will meet quarterly with the remit to “oversee delivery, land assembly and investment decisions and ….develop new policy for the capital”.
Mayor Sadiq Khan commented: “I am determined that Londoners get the same opportunities this great city gave me. That is why I am setting up my Homes for Londoners team to speed up homebuilding and to move towards 50% of new homes in London being genuinely affordable to rent and buy.”
David Montague, Chair of the g15, said: “The Mayor of London has made housing a priority from day one, and we have been working with James Murray on a new strategic housing partnership. Homes for Londoners will bring together the GLA, housing associations, local authorities and housebuilders to tackle the capital’s housing crisis.”
“The priority now must be to build a long-term pipeline of clean serviced and consented land. With this we can guarantee apprenticeships, jobs, economic growth, thriving communities and affordable homes. Without it, London will lose out in the competition for investment and growth.”
Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive London First, added: “The creation of Homes for Londoners is an important and encouraging step if we are to solve the capital’s housing crisis. We want it to have a relentless focus on delivery, including getting more public land into the market.”
Steve Bullock, executive member for housing, London Councils said: “I welcome this strategic initiative that will help all key agencies work closer together towards building the thousands of extra homes London urgently needs.”
Khan has also declared war on viability assessments, and is recruiting experts to a new team that will support the boroughs with residential planning applications. The aim is to both improve the speed at which boroughs can process applications, and their consistency. The team will also push back some of the more aggressive viability claims, to improve the percentage of affordable homes built on sites in the capital. Specifically, the team will advise on London Plan viability, Opportunity Areas and Intensification Areas, Development Infrastructure Funding Studies, and Housing Zones.
The skills and capacity review aims to fill in the gaps, to improve the ability of the City Hall team to bring forward more publicly owned sites for development, and its capacity to provide investment and planning support.

LPA Perspective: Time will tell whether this new governance board can deliver much from its quarterly musings. If well promoted, then it could form a useful point of regular contact between public and private sector, helping to guide policy. Khan has already shown, in recent moves over sites in Wimbledon and Kidbrooke, that he is prepared to be decisive, as well as pragmatic. If he can extract a similar level of sensible action from his board members, then the wheels could be usefully oiled.
A more immediate, and obvious benefit, ought to be evident from the viability expert team. Promoters of residential schemes, from developers such as Berkeley, to public sector bodies such as the NHS, have used viability arguments to wriggle out of affordable housing obligations in many London boroughs. Some have already started to kick back, demanding open publication of assessments. With a City Hall team in place to support all boroughs, this convenient ruse to help land sellers get a higher price, can be reduced in the scale and capacity of its use.

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