As the Mayoral election race gathers pace, some big changes are afoot in the housing department in City Hall that could have big implications for Londoners in the coming four years.
Stories about London’s housing often refer to it being in crisis: the average London house price is over £420,000, the average monthly rent for a 2-bed £1,351 and homelessness has risen 36% in the last year.
While an increasing number of Londoners struggle with finding somewhere affordable to rent or buy, few are fully aware of who has the political responsibility for improving their housing. After the election, they need to know that the accountable politician is the Mayor.
The London reforms in the 2011 Localism Act mean a transferring of housing and regeneration powers and responsibilities away from central Government to the Mayor and the Greater London Authority. The London Development Agency (LDA), which owns London’s public land, will cease to exist, and will transfer its assets and programmes to the Mayor.
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) will follow suit, transferring the affordable housing and regeneration budget for London to the Mayor. The Mayor’s office will also create a Mayoral Development Corporation and take over the management of the Olympic park site from the Olympic Park Legacy Company.
This means changes happening in City Hall are pretty significant – a new housing and land department is being created, with responsibility not just for housing policy, but for funding and building new homes. At a particularly challenging time for house building, it is vital that the GLA’s new housing department promotes, not reduces, the profile and reach of the Mayor’s housing function and accountability.
The next Mayor must seize the opportunities the Localism Act’s new housing powers present to create a strong, unified, publically accountable department for housing policy and investment in London.
This should harness the powers, the influence and most importantly the budget at the Mayor’s disposal to spearhead housing investment and delivery under a clear banner that Londoners can recognise and hold to account. It should be ambitious in its scope and seek solutions to London’s housing problems for those who rent or own their homes alike.
Londoner’s know who to demand transport or policing services from. After this election, it is crucial that the GLA’s new housing department has the public profile to ensure Londoners also know who is responsible for their housing.
Rachael Orr works for housing charity Shelter. Find out more about Shelter’s campaign to improve London’s housing.