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Mayor of London throws weight behind wave of new council housing

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The Deputy Mayor has spoken of a push for new London council housing, with authorities encouraged to build their own development programmes

Speaking at the AJ’s More Homes Better Homes conference last week, London deputy mayor for housing, land and property Richard Blakeway, said the Tory administration was behind ‘local authorities commissioning housing’, describing it as ‘a very positive thing’.

He added: ‘We have looked at encouraging local authorities to look at how they can build their own programmes and use their own land assets to develop homes. We now have 28 out of the 33 local authorities with their own programme.’

Blakeway’s comments echoed those made by former construction minister Nick Raynsford at the AJ’s Footprint Green Rethink conference in November (AJ 26.11.13), when he said there needed to be ‘a return to public sector building’.

However, speaking at last week’s conference, Raynsford joked: ‘Don’t trust politicians to deliver quality new homes.’

He added: ‘We need well-informed councils that understand it is not just about getting a few homes built and shouting about them, but creating communities and maintaining them in the years to come.’

Aecom director Ben de Waal agreed public sector development was needed to drive forward change in the housing sector. He said: ‘It is easier for the public sector to look at new forms of construction and change as they are not tied in to existing supply chains like private developers.’

Speakers also called for the housing market to be widened to include different types of developers and projects – not just the major house builders – to help ease the crisis.

Blakeway said: ‘There are fewer developers than we had 30 years ago. We need to attract newer developers to the market. We have about 7,000 fewer than we had before the recession.’

He added: ‘This is a serious impediment. We need to attract newer players who will come up with complementary products and not necessarily compete with what the volume house builders do – for example people who do custom-build, purpose-built private-rent, or can specialise in the intermediate market and shared ownership. These are new products which could compliment and accelerate house building, particularly in London.’

Chris Brown of developer Igloo said more innovative solutions were needed and ‘the market would be much better with a big custom-build sector’.

‘On big sites we need other modes coming in such as institutional market rents, custom-build, and more subsidised housing,’ he said.

Comments from the event

John Norden, design director, Pegasus Life

‘As architects we innovate around typology not technology. There is a latent high-tech tradition around education and sometimes that can lead you astray.’

Julia Park, head of housing research, Levitt Bernstein

‘Government wants more homes cheaper homes. The difference between cheaper and better is significant. The housing standards review exercise was about saving money, not increasing quality.’

Martyn Evans, creative director, Cathedral Group

‘We should look to customers and encourage them to demand better built homes. If people are not willing to demand better, house builders will continue to build poor quality homes.’

Nick Raynsford, MP

‘Don’t trust politicians to deliver quality new homes. You need a very demanding public. That’s where custom-build comes in. But we can’t run the entire country’s house building on custom-build. It can’t be done at such a large scale.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • let's hope they build council houses to standards that people would want to live in

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