Give Mayor & boroughs much more power in London to deliver a major boost in housebuilding
London will only have 50% of the homes it needs unless a radical devolution deal is agreed
Not only does London need more houses but it needs far more houses of all types and tenures. The Commission warns that promoting homeownership, if it comes at the price of fewer affordable rented properties, will add to London’s housing challenges.
- New planning powers: Give the Mayor power to ‘call in’ boroughs and their plans, where they are failing to identify enough land for homes or refusing too many applications to build new homes.
- Increase local borrowing: Increase the GLA’s borrowing powers and lift the cap on the borough housing borrowing limits.
- Keep more local stamp duty: Allow London to keep more of the stamp duty raised from homes in London, adjusting the rates over time.
- New local planning fees: Devolve responsibility for setting planning fees to allow boroughs to charge higher fees, enabling them to speed up the planning process.
- Ban landlords from letting poor quality homes within 10 years: Allow boroughs to set up their own licensing schemes for private landlords and allow them to use the fees to increase enforcement activity – including the condition that if by 2025 landlords haven’t brought rental properties up to a decent standard they should be barred from renting out these homes.
- Local power on taxing developers: The boroughs should have the power to levy a discretionary tax on developers where agreed housebuilding targets have been missed.
- Boroughs to set council tax premium on empty and second homes: Lift the cap on council tax premiums for empty and second homes.
“London is facing a housing crisis of unprecedented proportions brought about by a chronic undersupply of new housing. It needs urgently to be building far more houses of all types and tenures.
“The next strategy for London housing requires two phases. First, there is a number of actions the Mayor and the boroughs can take immediately to boost housing supply. Beyond that, there are a series of longer-term reforms, including devolving powers to the Mayor and the boroughs, which would make further inroads into the housing crisis, and maintain the momentum behind the efforts of the Mayor and boroughs.”
- Lord Bob Kerslake, former head of the UK Civil Service and DCLG (chair)
- Terrie Alafat, chief executive, Chartered Institute for Housing
- Mark Clare, former chief executive, Barratt Homes
- Nick Walkley, chief executive, London Borough of Haringey
- Professor Christine M Whitehead, emeritus professor of housing economics, LSE
The full report recommendations are as follows:
- To exempt London from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and instead give the mayor’s London Plan the same status as the NPPF – and give the mayor the power to force boroughs to change their plans if they are not identifying enough land for housing. This will mean that local authorities outside London have a duty to cooperate with the mayor to help solve London’s housing crisis.
- To allow the London Housing Committee to set planning fees for London.
- To allow both the GLA and the boroughs to borrow more for housebuilding and infrastructure.
- To devolve stamp duty on the same model as the government’s recent devolution of business rates to local authorities, allowing London to retain a substantial proportion of its stamp duty income, in return for an equivalent reduction in grants from central government, and to adjust stamp duty rates in consultation with the business community, such as via the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and London First.
- To allow the boroughs to levy, at their discretion, council tax on developments that fail to meet agreed building targets.
- To allow boroughs to create their own landlord licensing schemes.
- To double the supply of new homes to London to 50,000 per year by 2020, and to maintain this for at least the following five years.
- To ensure that London has sufficient housing at submarket rents.
- To eliminate non-decent housing in the private rented sector by 2025.
- To lend credibility to those commitments, the mayor and boroughs should also commit to take a number of specific actions, including:
- To identify sufficient land to deliver 50,000 homes per year for the next decade.
- To significantly increase the volume and speed of planning approvals, by increasing the capacity of boroughs’ planning departments and creating a London planning inspectorate.
- To earmark a significant proportion of public land for affordable housing and new privately rented housing.
- To take an active lead in the nurturing of housing and planning skills in the private and public sector.
- Speed up the release and development of public land identified as not in use by the London Land Commission for building homes.
- Lend planning expertise to Transport for London for it to review the potential for higher-density development around tube, rail and bus stations.
- Support communities to conduct their own neighbourhood planning to identify opportunities for regeneration and small sites not currently in the London Plan.
- Review greenbelt land near public transport sites, in exchange for improved community amenities and the extension of greenbelt protections in other places.
- The boroughs should conduct and publish an annual audit of the progress of local planning applications in their areas, and the progress of large sites in particular. The sites identified by the audit as needing extra support to be developed, either from the boroughs, the mayor’s office or central government, should be given that support.
- Offer public landowners the support of the London Development Panel to turn public land sites into new homes, on condition that a proportion of the public land is used exclusively for privately rented housing (for a limited period of time).
- Where it is appropriate for the site, or if a developer cannot be found, the combined resources of the mayor and boroughs should be used to directly commission housing on sites through housing associations and private developers.
- Support smaller developers by offering them first refusal on a proportion of small public sites identified for development through communities conducting their own neighbourhood planning, at no initial charge. The public landowner should take a stake in the sale or rental value of the homes created.
- Boroughs should publish an annual review of their progress against national and local targets for development.
- The mayor should immediately issue London-wide guidance on negotiating affordable housing with developers, and commit not to call in planning applications that demand a specified proportion of affordable housing.
- The mayor and boroughs should do a deal with housing associations to double their housebuilding in exchange for a pipeline of new sites.
- Consult on simplifying the affordable housing requirement of planning negotiations between boroughs and developers through the establishment of a London-wide affordable housing tariff.
- Launch a London lettings hub to link up tenants directly with good-quality, accredited landlords, and to offer discounted lettings