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Housing is “defining challenge” for London’s next mayor – Goldsmith

Words: Simon Wicks
Zac Goldsmith and Simon Ricketts

Meeting housing need will be the “defining challenge” for the next Mayor of London, Zac Goldsmith told an audience of planners today (Thursday 10 March).

Delivering 50,000 homes a year to provide for the capital’s growing population would need the release of “huge tracts” of publicly-owned brownfield land, the Richmond MP and Conservative mayoral candidate said.

Heavy investment in transport infrastructure will be required to unlock these sites – Crossrail 2 alone could open up land for up to 200,000 homes, Goldsmith claimed. And these homes need to be “across the board, otherwise we lose the mixed communitiess that make London a dynamic place to live”.

Speaking in a Q&A the offices of Turley at the inaugural event of planning thinktank Planning Futures, he said: “I don’t believe we are going to solve the housing crisis without dealing with the problem of supply. We can simplify the planning system and we should; but we must deal with supply.”

He continued: “We need to access land […] The biggest owner of brownfield land in London is central government. That land needs to be freed up and made available for development.

“But needs to be connected to the transport network. Transport is perhaps the biggest challenge. If we don’t grow the transport network, we will not solve the housing crisis.”

Taking a dig at Labour’s rival mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan, Goldsmith said London’s next mayor would have “mandate to build 50,000 homes a year” but if Transport for London’s budget were reduced – as Khan has pledged – this could not happen.

Though briefly ruffled by a challenge from to his insistence that housing associations had the capital to build two houses for every one sold under the extension of the Right to Buy scheme, Goldsmith gave an assured performance that covered topics ranging from green space to permitted development. He also committed to creating a "SWAT team" of planners to work with developers and local authorities across London in “big opportunity areas” and pledged to reduce congestion with greater use of consolidation depots and a “pan-London click and collect scheme” that would cut the high number of delivery vehicles on the capital’s roads.

However, affordability of housing and retention of London’s mixed communities was the dominant theme for the mayoral hopeful, who insisted that the controversial Starter Homes and Help to Buy schemes were helping “tens of thousands” on average earnings onto the housing ladder. “Everywhere [in London] people look out the window and see the cranes whirling. There’s a sense in every corner that it’s passed them by. They feel locked out of their own city, priced out of their own city,” he said.

“And it’s a fact. You can be earning the average London income of £34,500, and you are not going to qualify for social housing and you are not able to afford non-subsidised housing. You’re stuffed. This is not the squeezed middle […] It will be the defining challenge for the next mayor.”

Goldsmith said he was the best choice for mayor as he would be willing to “duff up the government” on behalf of Londoners while also maintaining the relationships essential to “getting a good deal for the capital’s residents”. The Conservative MP said he hoped to publish a "detailed housing manifesto" by the end of next week.

Planning Futures has invited Sadiq Khan to take part in a similar Q&A.


Read more

See what Zac Goldsmith had to say on a range of planning and built environment issues

See what Sadiq Khan has promised in his mayoral manifesto