World Town Planning Day 2017

House Me London (29/11/2017​)

Coinciding with the launch of Sadiq Khan’s draft London Plan, the theme for World Town Planning day 2017 was the “House Me London”campaign. Launched in May, “House Me London”seeks to engage all Londoners in a discussion about the challenges and solutions to London’s housing crisis. The evening featured an influential panel of speakers from within and beyond the built environment professions.

Coinciding with the Evening Standard’s Tuesday front page splash “Sadiq Khan's radical plans to build homes in back gardens to tackle London's housing crisis” (read the comments section at your pleasure), Zoe Green (PwC) asked the speakers for bold and imaginative solutions to housebuilding and the forthcoming London Plan. 

Jon Mann (Colliers International) talked about the issues of timing and speed in the delivery of housing after the housing targets announced in Budget 2017 and the new London Plan, noting London’s bad performance for house building in the period 2004-2012. Mann made emphasised the big gulf in terms of affordability, as the average income in London is almost £35,000 whilse the London house price is £ 585,500.  That is a staggering 17 x average earnings. He argued that these issues have led to uncertainty for young people who are not able to afford a decent home. Even if they do cut down on their avocado toast.

John Elledge (New Statesman / City Metric) argues the fundamental problem is that we do not build enough housing due to the lack of empty land. Elledge added increasing financialisaton of homes and globalisation has led to the high property prices. He proposes footprint expansion outwards or upwards as the solution to this housing crisis. 

John Myers (London YIMBY), argues there is plenty of room if we fix the system. Although UK housing costs have risen, we can build faster, Myers said, referring to 1930s when London was building more with less technology. Myers argues if reform ideas will not be ignored by the Prime Ministers, we can maker better places with higher densities in London.  

Architect Kevin Rhowbotham talked about housing as the asset on which the largest proportion of domestic income is spent. He proposes the establishment of a domestic housing landlord - a land bank that will control the prices. Being outside of market control, it will facilitate construction of appropriate housing to meet the national need. A socialist/regulatory approach to the problem.

Patrik Schumacher (Zaha Hadid Architects) calls for bottom-up solutions to the housing crisis, arguing rent controls is not the solution as they withdraw and restrict supply. “Let the market decide for efficiency and remove design requirements for innovation” Schumacher stated. A free market approach.

Dickon Robinson (Building Futures) argued that as the private sector failed to deliver housing, we should focus on affordable housing. At this point, he proposed S106 to be scrapped for affordable housing and that government should fund affordable homes from taxation including house builders. We are not entirely sure where this differs from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

The speeches were followed by an interesting discussion between the speakers and the audience where the extent to which the free market and state should intercede in the delivery of new homes was discussed. Finally, there was universal agreement the metropolitan Greenbelt is part of the solution to this housing crisis. “Less than 2% of London’s greenbelt could accommodate the 1 million new homes that London needs by 2020” (Colliers International). 

Authored by Michaela Kekeri 


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