Deputy Mayor brings together London housing sector to plan recovery

A new taskforce, set up to tackle the challenges Covid-19 poses to the London housing sector, has met for the first time.

The Covid-19 Housing Delivery Taskforce’, chaired and convened by Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, Tom Copley, is made up of leaders from across London’s housing delivery sector including councils, construction, unions, and housing associations. The group will consider how the sector can adapt and maintain resilience and also look at specific support needed from Government that would be effective in maintaining housing supply and providing confidence in the market. The taskforce will aim to speak with a shared voice tackling the many challenges ahead.

Deputy Mayor Tom Copley has expressed his wish for the London housing sector to do more than just bounce back – but to emerge from this crisis with a renewed focus on delivery of the social and other genuinely affordable homes London needs.

The taskforce will meet every fortnight to focus on specific challenges and consider appropriate responses and interventions that can be brought forward from across the sector.

330,000 Londoners work in construction, and it accounts for 5% of London’s economic output. 37% of construction workers in London are self-employed, and therefore particularly vulnerable to loss of income. Analysis by the estate agents Savills estimates that the Coronavirus has led to construction being halted on sites involving 28,600 homes in London, equivalent to 79% of total supply in 2018/19. Savills also found that most larger housebuilders have halted new acquisitions and fewer sites are being brought to market.

Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, Tom Copley said: Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, Tom Copley said: ““Delivering the social and other genuinely affordable homes Londoners need has always been the Mayor’s top priority and this pandemic challenges our ambitious targets like never before. I am pleased that so many key members of the London housing sector have responded to my call to join this new taskforce, working together to help the industry through this crisis and ensuring we can build a better future after it.

“The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated that an economic shock can have a sustained impact on the housing market and the delivery of new homes. It is essential that planning starts now to ensure London recovers as quickly as possible and the sector continues to deliver the homes Londoners need at pace and at scale.

“The public sector must play a key role. Having begun to rebuild their house building capacity, supported by the Mayor, London’s councils are in a much stronger position to support this recovery than they were 12 years ago.

“I want us to do more than just bounce back from this. I want London’s housing sector to emerge from this crisis with improved resilience, a greater sense of co-operation and a new found resolve to deliver the genuinely affordable homes that London so desperately needs.”

London’s housing sector is unique in the UK – not only in its scale but also in the systems of planning and governance behind it. The Mayor has statutory housing and planning responsibilities in London and manages London’s affordable homes programme. The Mayor also supports the construction industry through programmes such as the Mayor’s Construction Academy. These responsibilities make it crucial that City Hall takes a leading role in co-ordinating the response and recovery of the London sector, and that Government takes the recommendations of the Taskforce on board.

Taskforce member and Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation Kate Henderson said: “I’m delighted to be part of this task force, working to ensure vital housebuilding work restarts as quickly as possible in London.

“The disruption caused by coronavirus means that tackling the housing crisis will be a bigger challenge than ever before. As more and more people struggle to afford a decent, secure place to live, building much needed social housing will be vital in supporting our communities and the economy to recover.

“Housing associations make an enormous contribution to the supply of new homes in London, particularly affordable homes, and we stand ready to work with councils, the GLA and national government to ensure this can continue as we emerge from this crisis.”

Taskforce member and Policy Director at the Home Builders Federation David O’Leary said: “As the industry works towards a new way of building and selling homes the challenges in London are particularly acute with additional issues around safe travel. We’re delighted to be supporting the work of the Mayor to plot a path back to safely delivering new homes in the capital.

“Achieving this will require extensive collaboration between all parties on whom housing delivery is dependent, but the scale of London’s housing crisis requires strong action and clarity from London’s Boroughs, the Mayor and the government.

“As well as helping to tackle our housing shortage, home building can generate enormous economic and social benefits at this time of great uncertainty but this can only happen with proper safety provisions in place to protect the health and safety of the vast home building workforce and the communities in which our members work.”

Taskforce member and TUC Regional Secretary Sam Gurney said: “We are eager to contribute to strategies and action plans to deal with the emergency, and to the design and delivery of a recovery plan for all aspects of the housing sector, that best serves the interests of all those who live in London.”

The Taskforce includes Tom Copley and Jules Pipe from the GLA, Darren Rodwell from London Councils, Rokhsana Fiaz the Mayor of Newham, former Brent Council regeneration director Andy Donald now at London Brough of Redbridge, David Lunts of the OPDC and GLA, David O’Leary
from the Home Builders Federation, Jonathan Seager from London First, Kate Henderson from the National Housing Federation, Helen Evans
from the G15 group of housing associations, Suzannah Nichol of BuildUK, Brian Berry from the Federation of Master Builders, and Sam Gurney
from the TUC.
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