• Zac Goldsmith (Conservative) and Sadiq Khan (Labour) are the main candidates in the London mayoral election on 5 May 2016.
  • Both candidates oppose skyscrapers, and both want to impose restrictions on foreign investment in the capital’s property market.

With London’s mayoral election looming, Henry Wiltshire takes a look at the different candidates’ views on housing. As London grows ever bigger, and with a need for at least 50,000 more homes every year, not to mention affordable housing, property development is at the top of the agenda for both Labour candidate Sadiq Khan and Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith.

London under Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, London’s current mayor, has created a number of high-rise housing developments, using his mayoral powers to approve building projects over a certain size and bypassing the position of local planning authorities. On the positive side, he has gone a considerable way to meeting the housing needs of the capital, especially as there is such a shortage of land to build on. On the negative side, he has overridden the wishes of local authorities and communities, who are now feeling angry and disenfranchised. Equally, it seems Boris Johnson has done little to address the shortage of affordable housing in Britain’s capital.

Property development is at the top of the agenda for both Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith

Sadiq Khan’s housing plan

Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan’s priority is affordable housing, pledging that 50% of new housing should be affordable. He hopes to speed up the delivery of affordable homes by creating a housing agency, New Homes for Londoners, which will source public land for housing projects as well as the funding to delivery them.

He also wants to crack down on “iceberg basements” and legislate against selling properties off-plan to overseas investors.

Sadiq Khan is broadly against the 436 skyscrapers currently awaiting approval across London, siding with the local communities whose voice was ignored by Boris Johnson, and hoping to do more to preserve the charm and character of London’s different boroughs.

Zac Goldsmith’s housing plan

Like Sadiq Khan, Zac Goldsmith is opposed to new skyscrapers being built in London and wants to give Londoners a voice on new developments. In addition, he proposes to address the housing problem by creating streets, rebuilding communities and creating a sense of location.

Zac Goldsmith’s policy on overseas investment is more flexible than Sadiq Khan’s, encouraging spending on long-term private rentals. On the other hand, he will limit the purchase of new properties built on TFL land to Londoners and to those who have lived in the capital for more than three years.

Affordable housing is a priority for Zac Goldsmith, but his outlook is more reserved. He believes that Khan’s 50% affordable housing figure is unrealistic, and virtually impossible to make cost-effective.

Henry Wiltshire Director, Kelly Gallagher, says, “While we understand why Sadiq Khan would like to restrict overseas investment, we also see how it would restrict the housing market in general. What London needs is more housing stock but it won’t happen if it can’t be funded by off-plan sales. The overseas property investment market plays a larger part in London’s economy than many people think and curtailing it would not be a prudent move.”

“We also feel that skyscrapers are not necessarily the scourge of the capital, and it’s a shame that both Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith portray them in that way. The right building in the right place can be a real asset, offering a lot of residential space with a comparatively small footprint – surely a great solution for a city with a housing crisis.”

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