As our City of Tomorrow campaign concludes, we are taking a look at London as a megacity in the future. Using research available, we have asked experts from across our business to reflect on London as the population hits 10 million, the demographic shift accompanying this, and the practical steps that need to be taken now to deliver sustainable growth.
In our next article, Partner Sam Stackhouse reflects on the planning and development of housing delivery in London, recommending strategic approaches to overcome accelerated population growth.
PLANNING AND HOUSING DELIVERY
Central to London's population growth is the importance of housing delivery in supporting wider affordability and workforce retention.
Housing delivery, however, doesn’t just provide new housing stock; it assists in recycling existing housing and rebalancing households so that people live in homes that meet their needs. In short, it creates fluidity in the housing market. But for people to make the move, new housing must be of a quality that meets their needs. In recent years, we have seen the growth of Build to Rent, Purpose-Built Student Accommodation and Co-Living as alternative residential tenures which are centrally managed and secure and offer a genuine alternative to the HMO market.
We have also seen growth in retirement villages which provide a community for older generations to integrate and care for, as and when their needs dictate, and an environment without the burdens of maintaining a home. In turn, the movement of the younger and older generations from larger homes (whether HMO or single-family occupied) into more suitable accommodation has wider benefits in terms of freeing up this stock for young families. With this in mind, it is vitally important that a variety of housing types are being delivered to meet the needs of London’s changing and growing demographic.
The challenge is that planning policy in a London context is typically, and at best, lukewarm in supporting alternative housing tenures, which are often seen as the poor cousin to the traditional and familiar 'Build to Sell' model. Demonstrating an objective need for such tenures can be problematic (although this is maturing), and there are political challenges, with many town halls often hesitant over such tenures on the basis that they do not typically deliver conventional affordable housing which is the priority needs in most boroughs. Combined, this makes it challenging to deliver new housing, so issues around need and affordability continue to spiral.
Planning policy can do better to boost the housing supply (and that is without even going anywhere near the debate about reviewing Green Belt boundaries). Indeed, it needs to recognise that “residential” does not just mean Class C3. This umbrella term encompasses multiple tenures of living, all of which have a role in meeting the needs of London's existing and future population.
It could go further, too, and consider actively allocating sites for schemes aimed at these particular demographics. Indeed, this approach as part of the plan-making process would provide transparency about where such development is being directed, ensure that there is a strategic approach to creating mixed and balanced communities, and show that they are not detrimental to affordable housing delivery on the basis that they would be planned for – not speculative or at the expense of any allocated build to sale residential development that would provide conventional affordable housing.
In turn, this approach would mean less planning risk and instil greater market confidence in a wider range of housing tenures, creating a stronger basis for housing delivery that better meets London’s increasing and diverse needs.