London is a modern city with a high proportion of very old housing. The population has climbed to a record level but the supply of new homes has failed to keep pace. In the last decade fewer homes were built than in the 1960s and 70s, when the population was shrinking. The capital is still very reliant on housing from the 19th century.
Nearly a quarter of the homes in London were built before 1900. This is especially true for inner London. The 1930s saw a house-building boom as the population rose to a record level that has only just been surpassed. The data for house building, going back to 1871, shows the surges in the Victorian and Edwardian periods but neither matches the peaks or the 1930s.
The current housing stock reflects how that building activity was spread across the capital. Inner London was the focus in the early 1900s and before. The 1920s and 30s saw the shift to outer London and the development of the suburbs.
Across the capital there are some vastly contrasting borough stories. 65% of housing in Kensington and Chelsea was built before 1900. In Barking and Dagenham it is just 1%. As the map below, produced by the GLA in the Housing in London report, shows the red areas of 1900s housing are inner city, surrounded by the orange of 1930s development.
The blue areas of recent building show the re-development of docklands areas in Tower Hamlets. 28% of the borough’s housing stock was built in the 21st century, which is the highest proportion in London and the UK.
The Mayor, Boris Johnson, has described the need to build more homes as an “epic challenge”. It’s estimated that more than 40,000 more homes are a year required for the next 20 years to meet demand. The housing stock map of London will need a lot more blue zones on the map to reduce the reliance on the dark red legacy of those Victorian builders.