London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has urged government ministers to back the city’s aims of building a large number of new council homes.
Launching a new report, Khan has urged the government to undertake several key reforms to make it easier for the capital’s local authorities to build.
London started building 3,300 new council homes last year – more than it has in any year since 1983 – as Khan’s £1 billion Building Council Homes for Londoners programme enters its third year.
The programme has a target of starting 116,000 new affordable homes by March 2022, but greater reforms are needed to increase the number of genuinely affordable homes that Londoners can build, such as social rented homes, the mayor has warned.
Khan said: “As we grapple with the impact of coronavirus, it is more important than ever that we address our city’s inequalities and build the good quality council homes that future generations of Londoners will be proud to live in.
“The fantastic reaction to our Building Council Homes for Londoners programme showed there is a big appetite from councils to build the homes Londoners so desperately need. Ministers now need to stop blocking the aspirations of London’s councils to build and give London the funding and powers we need to build new council homes at scale.
“There’s been huge progress in recent years, but I know we can do more. We’ve laid the foundations for a new era of council homebuilding to be at the heart of our post-Covid recovery – it is now up to ministers to back us to deliver.”
The report by City Hall, Building London’s Future, has revealed that councils wishing to build more affordable homes in the capital face three key challenges – namely a lack of funding, difficulty in acquiring suitable land for affordable homes, and a gap in housebuilding skills and expertise.
Suggested reforms outlined in the report include allowing councils to compulsory purchase land more cheaply, setting aside more government-owned land for council housing, and committing to a decade-long funding plan for councils.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, said that council housing has a crucial role to play in addressing London’s homelessness crisis and in supporting the capital’s economic recovery from COVID-19.
“Boroughs are determined to keep increasing the number of new council homes and other forms of affordable housing,” Cllr Rodwell commented.
“We’re enthusiastic supporters of the government’s ‘build, build, build’ agenda – but ministers could do much more to boost resources for council housebuilding and empower us to deliver affordable homes at even greater scale.”
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has been approached for comment.