In his speech to the Conservative Party conference the Prime Minister, David Cameron, called for a house building “crusade” to deal with the shortage of homes. Nowhere is this felt more severely than in the capital where the success in jobs growth but the failure in house building has led to a structural shortfall.
Since 2002 London has seen a 21% increase in jobs and a 16% rise in population. Over the same period new homes have increased by 10%. And the pressure on housing will continue as London’s population forecast suggests it will grow at 100,000 a year for the next decade.
House building in the capital has been bumping along at around the 20,000 level for the past 10 years. Following the financial crisis of 2008 it dipped sharply. Most of the homes being built are in the private sector, not social housing, which raises issues about affordability.
New home starts are climbing back towards where they were 10 years ago, but it is still not enough and the problem is widely acknowledged. In his housing strategy document last year the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said that housing was an epic challenge and that the number of new homes being built in the capital would need to double to 42,000 per year for the next 20 years to keep pace with population growth.
The problem in London is more severe than in other comparable cities. Annualised figures for population growth and home building over the past decade show Tokyo and New York in housing surplus, while Paris has an annual shortfall but not to the same level as London
London relies heavily on housing stock from the last century and before, as reported by Urbs London. A quarter of the homes were built before 1900. Outer London saw a huge house-building boom in the 1920s and 30s but in recent years there has been very little increase in these areas. Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, reported by Urbs, show that since 2000 there has been a 11% increase in new dwellings across London (both new builds and conversions) but in 16 outer boroughs this growth is in single figures with just 4% in Sutton and 2% in Merton.
A survey carried out by the housing charity, Shelter, earlier this year showed that most people in London support the building of new homes in their area. And the number of Londoners who strongly support new building was much higher than in England as a whole.
Despite the political ambition to build and the apparent public support for it, the housing shortfall that London needs to make up will mean that availability and affordability will continue to be severe problems for years to come, and the issue is likely to be a significant battleground in the election for the next Mayor in May 2016.