Leading new homes property portal WhatHouse? has bought together some of the leading figures in housing, transport and politics to discuss how London should move forward regarding its future housing requirements. The WhatHouse? New Homes Debate, held in partnership with Show House magazine and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was chaired by Lord (William) Hague, former Leader of the House of Commons. Taking place at the Emirates Stadium, the debate focused on four specific questions regarding London housing with each issue discussed by four different panels.
The first question was ‘Where are we now?’ With a number of organisations, such as the campaign group London First, saying that 50,000 new homes need to be built in London each year to meet the capital’s housing demands, one of the first points was made by Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He said that “big developers aren’t going to build 50,000 new houses”. He suggested that, instead, there needs to be “an army of small housebuilders” to set and meet the targets required. Former Deputy Mayor for Housing, Richard Blakeway agreed with this saying there needs to be a bigger variety of housebuilders to tackle the number of new homes London needs.
The second panel discussed ‘Finding the land, planning the homes and funding the builders’. For Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, part of the problem was planning permissions being given to, but not acted upon by housebuilders. Kate Davies, Chief Executive of Notting Hill Housing pointed out that her housing association as well as others had significant sums of money to lend at favourable rates to housebuilders for joint projects but this was currently not being taken advantage of.
The importance of transport and infrastructure to housing was next discussed by a panel that included senior figures from Transport for London (TfL) and Network Rail. Both organisations said they intended to use most of the land they have to incorporate housing in the future. Howard Dawber, managing director of strategy at Canary Wharf Group, reminded the audience that good transport links helps deliver “housing in areas where housing wouldn’t otherwise work”.
The fourth and final panel debate was titled ‘Khan he deliver’ and looked at what options the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had in seeing through the promises he has already made regarding London housing. One problem highlighted by the chairman of Berkeley Homes, Tony Pidgley, was that there was a lower level of quality tradesman on his company’s books. This reflected a wider concern that not enough quality and quantity of skilled tradesmen were coming into the construction industry which is slowing down housebuilding.
These were just some of the points raised during the debate that brought consensus in some areas as well as differing views in others. Other panellists taking part included Mark Collins, chairman of residential global agent CBRE, Charles Haresnape, group managing director of lenders Aldermore, Graeme Craig, TfL’s commercial director, James Lidgate, director of housing at investment company Legal and General Capital, Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Michael Scobie of housebuilding suppliers, Hangrohe and James Murray, current London Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development.