Two weeks in to Sadiq Khan’s Mayoralty, and it is becoming clear the challenge he faces, particularly in relation to one of his biggest priorities: housing. He has a difficult balance to strike. He needs to show that he can increase the share of affordable homes without drying up overall housing supply (unless he wants private rents to rise even faster). James Murray, the new Housing Deputy Mayor has managed to deliver this in Islington to a large extent, and the briefing against him ahead of his appointment by some developers was almost certainly counter-productive, given they will now have to work with him. Since even Murray, however, has only achieved roughly a third of all housing being affordable in his (high value) borough, the idea that he is either going to achieve 50 per cent affordable housing or is a socialist devil incarnate both seem rather far fetched.
One area that seems increasingly a new cross-party consensus is opposition to the tendency for London homes to be built as savings or hotel rooms for the super-rich. After Sadiq joined the attacks this week, the Livingstone/Lister agenda of plutocratic tall towers is increasingly besieged. However, we suspect that for some sites, a good offer on S106 or uplift for TfL will still be able to overcome such concerns. The net result likely from all this – more mid–rise development, but continuing exceptions on specific sites will probably be workable for developers, and more politically sustainable.
Given Sadiq seemed to be trying to unpick his election promises and move to a more pragmatic position (e.g. watering down his 50 per cent target) in briefing to the trade press, the departure of Neale Coleman and failure to land Adonis, who had been tipped to take a key role at City Hall is clearly a worry. It may be that having looked more closely at what they were being asked to deliver in the roles, the offers became less attractive. But if even his friends think he is going to struggle to fulfil his promises, it does not bode well for Khan, or a city that desperately needs more homes.
Perhaps as a result of all this, Sadiq chose to grab a headline by showing he was prepared to support Starter Homes in return for a ‘deal’ with central Government on issues like social housing. But it is unclear what this ‘support’ is worth given the Housing and Planning Act mandates 20% Starter Homes on almost all sites. Sadiq Khan perhaps needs to understand a failure to supply more than headlines will bring an end to his steady ascent within Labour, focus less on grandstanding (the election is over), and more on getting down to delivering homes.