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Mayor sets out plan to ‘reboot’ building in the capital

Words: Laura Edgar
Offsite manufacturing of housing / iStock-173607372

Fresh investment and a focus on the latest technology is required to get the housing sector building in London amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Mayor Sadiq Khan. 

Khan and professionals from the housing industry have also called for “significant” funding from the government to support affordable housing and modular housing.

He said: “The work of London’s Covid-19 Housing Delivery Taskforce has been collaborative, comprehensive and timely. Building the social and other genuinely affordable homes Londoners need has always been my top priority but the pandemic has challenged that ambition like nothing before.  

“Now we have a unique opportunity to reboot the London housing sector. This roadmap to recovery builds on the skills, expertise and experience we have whilst investing in the latest technology and training to maintain our world-leading workforce.

“The housing industry is speaking with one voice and its message is clear. Now ministers must listen and support our recommendations so we can emerge from this crisis with improved resilience, a greater sense of cooperation and a new-found resolve to deliver the genuinely affordable homes that London so desperately needs.”

The plan takes its lead from deputy mayor Tom Copley’s Covid-19 Housing Delivery Taskforce, which believes it is “essential” to develop the skills and expertise of existing workforce and “build on the successes” of the mayor’s Construction Academy by training new construction workers through apprenticeship and training programmes. Further, to ensure London remains an attractive place for skilled construction site workers from overseas, a post-Brexit visa system for construction workers should be developed.

The taskforce’s final report identifies a number of actions aimed at helping London’s housing sector recover, including developing skills in modern methods of construction in particular is key. It has called on both the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the government to invest in this technology to support businesses so they can expand operations and develop environmentally friendly products to help the industry achieve a zero-carbon future.

Recommendations also include:

  • A £4.83 billion recovery package from the government to provide confidence to the housing industry in the short term. This should comprise a £1.33 billion programme to facilitate changes of tenure in the remaining three years of the Affordable Homes Programme, and a £3.5 billion buyer of last resort scheme. 
  • City Hall and Whitehall to cooperate on a campaign to promote the construction sector as a career that can be considered by all, whether young people finishing their studies and entering the job market for the first time, people changing careers, or those whose jobs are at risk due to the economic impact of Covid-19, alongside a major investment in apprenticeships.
  • Government and City Hall to step up efforts to bring forward land that is ready for development, including public land for affordable housing-led development and sites suitable for smaller builders. This should include the government granting public bodies such as councils and the GLA powers to compulsorily purchase land much more cheaply.

Kate Henderson, chief executive at the National Housing Federation (NHF), said: “Investing in housing is one of the most important steps the government can take to help get the economy moving again. As well as being the right thing to do, putting money into new social housing always pays dividends through support for jobs, businesses and the wider economy. Indeed, building the 90,000 new social homes this country needs every year would add £4.8 billion to the economy and support 86,000 jobs. This is why it’s vital that the coronavirus pandemic doesn't get in the way of tackling the housing crisis.”

Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing & planning, added: “We need a new deal for London’s housing sector in line with the government’s commitment to ‘build, build, build’.

“Boroughs are playing a leading role in tackling the capital’s chronic shortage of affordable homes. This includes embracing innovative new approaches, such as our collaborative project PLACE that will use modular housing units as high-quality temporary accommodation for homeless Londoners.

“But with the sector under massive pressure due to Covid-19, there’s a clear and urgent need for government support. Only central government has the resources to boost housebuilding in the capital with an emergency recovery package, which would secure jobs and help us deliver the homes Londoners need.”

The report can be found here on the GLA website.

Image credit | iStock