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London’s housing crisis highlights need to tackle “land shortages”

Industry Insight February 12th, 2017
London’s housing crisis highlights need to tackle “land shortages”

Arthur takes a look at how overlooked land in the capital is contributing to land shortages for building new housing.

Over the past year, there have been numerous claims suggesting that London’s housing crisis is in fact a “land crisis” and that land shortages simply aren’t an excuse. As a densely populated capital city, London must make the most efficient use of its space in order to accommodate the growing demand for property.

During his election campaign, Sadiq Khan focused heavily on London’s issue with land shortages, suggesting that “the housing crisis is the single biggest barrier to prosperity, growth and fairness facing Londoners today”.

Upon taking office, he exposed the full extent of the crisis, accusing the previous Mayor, Boris Johnson, of not doing enough to tackle the issue. He identified a flawed process in identifying public land for homes and has since pledged to build hundreds of new homes on land owned by City Hall and Transport for London, in an attempt to fast-track sites which were not previously put to use by the previous Mayor. A major problem is that developers are hoarding land, waiting for it to steadily become more valuable. Developers may now risk being stripped of planning permission for a site if they do not start construction processes within a given period of time.

Considering the current Tory government’s reluctance to increase home building efforts in London’s green belt (and greenfield sites in general) it is necessary that all space within the city itself is put to best use. At last week’s Big Debate of the new London Plan, a spokesperson for the global design firm AECOM said the capital needs to build “in, up and out”. Since London’s population is growing at 70,000 a year, he stressed a need for more tall buildings inside the city in order to maximise limited, but available space.

The reality is that space is available within the city for property development and land shortages aren’t as severe as they might seem, especially in the suburbs. There have been suggestions that the government reduce stringency of planning permission processes for (1) building up (adding extra floors to existing properties) and (2) developing garden space.

In order to continue with Boris Johnson’s London Land Commission initiative, which was creating to tackle land shortages by compiling a register of publicly owned land and property in London, Evening Standard’s Homes&Property is encouraging readers to contribute to a new Domesday Book for London. They want readers to tell them about empty areas of land they have noticed, brownfield sites that they feel could be put to better use, and parts of the green belt which aren’t green at all! This information will be sent to City Hall where it is hoped that it will be used to combat the “land shortages” excuse for the housing crisis and provide incentive for further housing development sites.

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