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Homes for London?

[THIS WEEK] Shelter’s Homes for London proves there is hope for England’s capital yet, writes James Pallister

In John Lanchester’s 2010 book Whoops! Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay, he deadpanned that the most frightening words in the English language were the gloating, fear-tinged refrain of dinner parties, mid-property boom. It went: ‘Did you hear what they got for that house down the road?’ His latest novel Capital fleshes out the human stories behind the financial crisis which he unpicked so well in Whoops!

In the stranger-than-fiction reality, the average house price of a London property is £386,000. With post-crisis banks wary of gung-ho salary-to-lending ratios, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that you have to be well above the median salary bracket (£26,244 in case you’re interested) to have a snowball’s chance of buying in the capital (unless you can rely on Ma and Pa). As the FT pointed out this weekend, the UK is moving to an increasing reliance on a ‘family welfare’ model similar to Spain or Greece, where the younger generation rely on financial assistance from their elders, with a resulting decrease in social mobility.

Despite the gloom, there’s signs of hope for a more progressive attitude to house-building in London. Last year, the Housing Design Guide was introduced (the first standards of its kind since Parker Morris were abandoned in the 1980s).Now the homeless charity Shelter has seized upon the London Mayoral election – and the imminent extension of the mayor’s influence on London’s housing – to launch a proposal for a new body: Homes for London (HfL).

Like Design for London’s urbanist advocacy, the idea is that HfL would fight on behalf of its citizens’ housing needs, whether through increasing supply (its aim is 33,400 a year), shifting the definition of ‘affordable housing’, or prosecuting rogue landlords. Organisers of the campaign are looking for input on how its activity should develop. Hopefully architects will write themselves into this story.

Visit Homes for London . Read Policy Briefing Document
Read Capital, John Lanchester, Faber & Faber, 2012, £17.99 /
Whoops!, John Lanchester, Penguin, 2010, £9.99

POSTSCRIPT: For more on the growing income disparity in London and the effect of the financial sector on housing, read this Reuters report by Chris Vellacott

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