The London A-Z: H is for Homelessness?

by Johnny Clayton on Monday, 27 August 2018

Anna Stott, Senior Planner at Indigo Planning & YEP London

A comprehensive review of every London Borough, their associated statistics and handy facts has been published by town planning consultancy Indigo Planning.  The document, using data taken from Government departments, the GLA and multiple other sources, provides a visual overview of the demographic, socio-economic and planning traits of each of the 32 Boroughs, the City of London and the Greater London Authority.

Housing is always at the top of any conversation on policy revisions in London, and for that matter the rest of the UK.  London remains as the most attractive city to live and work in, although the crisis in housing affordability remains as a one of the greatest issues going forwards for those in their late-twenties and thirties.  This isn’t a new issue, London has suffered from a decades-long housing shortfall, a result of long-term population growth, a restricted land market and a development model not suited to delivering on a mass scale. 

This chronic shortfall is acknowledged in the draft London Plan which has dramatically revised housing targets across the capital. So much so that 13 of the 32 boroughs have been set the unenviable task of increasing their housing delivery by over 100%, in the next plan period, and all but six boroughs face an increase in their housing targets. The question is though, will this tough stance on targets increase delivery?

As Indigo’s A-Z shows, housing completions have been lagging severely behind permissions over the last decade and completions must be significantly increased if the capital is to get anywhere near meeting the overall target of 64,935 homes per annum over the next 20-25 years.

This problem is not isolated to London, of course, and across the UK the supply of housing has not been keeping up with demand. Getting access to housing of any type is becoming increasingly difficult for low income households and the most vulnerable in our society, all of which is exacerbating issues such as homelessness. 

Homelessness is more present than ever in the capital and as professionals in the construction industry, surely this needs to be one of the key focuses and drivers to ensure the deliverability and success of housing.  Homelessness has been on the rise for the last seven years, with around 4,750 people estimated to be sleeping rough on any given night in England in 2017. In south-east London there has been a 150% increase in rough sleeping from 2010-2017.

Data from the Indigo A-Z suggests that in Greater London, 5.03 per 1000 of the population are homeless, with the London Borough of Camden having the lowest rates of homelessness (0.6 per 1,000) and the London Borough of Newham with the highest (10.15 per 1,000 population). 

There is of course, no simple solution and it is certainly something local authorities are aware of.  Indeed, Newham’s Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE outlined a radical new approach to tackle her borough’s housing crisis at the end of June 2018.

The London Plan sets out 38 Opportunity Areas and 7 Intensification Areas located across 30 of the London Boroughs.  These areas are clearly key targets for development, but, how successful are they going to be in tackling some of the darkest social issues such as housing shortfalls and homelessness in London?      

If we are ever to tackle these issues, then it’s going to require a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary approach.  Local authorities will need more powers and less austerity to deliver the homes lost through the ‘right to buy’ rules brought in during the 1980’s, and more state funding to build and regenerate existing estates.  Planning policy makers and decision takers should be promoting higher densities, tougher housing targets, the release of brownfield land, perhaps with the relaxation of the green belt or metropolitan open land controls.    

It is also about the quality of the housing products on offer, with trends changing, and many Londoners accepting the fact that they are unlikely to ever be able to buy in the capital, now is the time to seriously consider wholesale rental reforms and enhanced security for renters. Furthermore, can products like PRS, modular and co living solve the problem or is it all too little too late?

Either way, the data released by Indigo, gives a clear indication that London is a long way from achieving its aims, and certainly Sadiq has a busy workload to deal with!



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