The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has promised to prioritise key workers for thousands of new affordable homes being built across the city.
The Greater London Authority (GLA) will work with trade unions, emergency services and local authorities to create a core list of essential workers to be prioritised for new intermediate housing.
Workers set to be included on the list include nurses and wider NHS staff, police officers, transport workers, firefighters and teachers.
Under new planning guidance to be set out by the GLA, London boroughs will be expected to give people in listed occupations priority access to buy or rent homes below market rates. Boroughs will also be able to add other occupations to the list to reflect local needs.
Khan said: “London’s key workers are the lifeblood of our city and we all depend on their hard work every day – to keep us safe, to care for us, and to provide other essential services. Their heroic service during the pandemic has further highlighted the injustice that many key workers still can’t afford to live in the capital.
“Making it easier for key workers to live in the city they serve with such dedication is the very least they deserve. Housing costs have driven far too many Londoners away, robbing us of their skills and expertise. Providing more access to Intermediate housing, alongside much-needed homes for social rent, will play a vital role in turning that tide.
“I want all London key workers to have a safe and secure home that they can afford. We can never thank them enough for their service over the last year, but by helping them buy or rent a home below the market rate we can help them to put down roots, and ensure they can become part of the communities they serve.”
The new core list comes following a wider consultation by the GLA on the role of intermediate housing in London following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Intermediate housing is affordable housing targeted at people who are unable to buy or rent a suitable home on the open market but who are unlikely to qualify for social rented homes.
Intermediate housing includes homes made available for London Shared Ownership and London Living Rent, two types of tenure to which key workers will now be given priority access.
The GLA sees expanding the supply of intermediate housing as a way to help key workers get on the housing ladder, with most homes on London’s open market unaffordable to key workers.
According to the latest Office of National Statistics figures, the median average price of a flat in London last June was £426,000 – over 11 times a London firefighter’s typical annual wage, over 12 times a teacher’s salary and over 13 times a nurse’s income.
The new, stronger planning guidance will enforce the expectation that key workers should be prioritised for new intermediate homes. This will have regard to local need if local authorities and housing providers choose to restrict sales to certain groups for the first three months of marketing new homes, as per current London planning policy.
The GLA has pledged to continue championing the delivery of new shared ownership and social rented homes, in addition to schemes providing homes exclusively for key workers such as the 22 homes set to be built at St Ann’s Hospital in Haringey.
The GLA says that successfully implementing such a policy in London could see its adoption nationwide, ensuring that all key workers have access to appropriate housing.
Helen Evans, chair of the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations and chief executive of Network Homes, said: “Everyone needs a safe, secure and affordable home. Many of the key workers who have done such a fantastic job keeping essential services running during the pandemic, struggle to afford a home reasonably near to where they work.
“The G15 fully supports the Mayor’s aim of ensuring London’s key workers have access to the safe, secure and affordable homes they deserve. Last year we launched our Homes for Heroes campaign, calling on the private, public and charitable sectors to join together to build thousands of low cost homes to thank and support essential workers in London and nationwide.”
Lisa Elliott, the Royal College of Nursing’s regional director for London, said: “Too many nursing staff are telling me they are struggling to access affordable housing for themselves and their families. As a result, they are having to commute long distances to work, pay high housing costs, or are being forced out of London because they simply can’t afford to live and work in the city.
“This is compounded by the fact that nursing pay has not kept pace with the rising cost of living in the capital, and the government proposal of a 1% pay increase will not give nursing staff in London the financial security they so desperately need.
“Incentives to increase access to affordable housing are key to supporting nursing staff in the capital. However, these alone won’t be enough. Incentives on travel and a fair pay rise will be key to retaining and attracting more nursing staff into London now and in the future.”