New standards from the mayor point the way to a new generation of high-quality, low-carbon and fire-safe social housing properties for our capital city, writes Tom Copley
COVID-19 has shone a fresh light on housing inequalities across the country, including in our capital city. For many of those who are spending more time at home in too small, too expensive or unsuitable housing, a new health crisis has highlighted the existing housing crisis many Londoners face.
Today, mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is announcing a new five-year blueprint to put high-quality social housing at the heart of his plans for London. A new funding prospectus sets out a plan for 82,000 genuinely affordable homes over the next five years, backed by an additional £4bn of funding.
A decent home shouldn’t be the preserve of the rich, and this programme will enshrine our ambition that new social housing isn’t just more affordable than the private sector but better to live in too, with high design, energy efficiency and safety standards.
As the pioneering post-war housing minister, Aneurin Bevan, once said: “While we shall be judged for a year or two by the number of houses we build… we shall be judged in 10 years’ time by the type of houses we build.”
The truth is London’s ambitions continue to be curtailed by central government, which refuses to give our city the funding we need to build at the scale we need.
But despite the lack of funding from Whitehall, Sadiq Khan has delivered record-breaking numbers of new affordable homes over the past four years. Last year, London started more genuinely affordable homes than in any year since City Hall’s records began in 2003. The priority focus from the mayor on council housing has helped to spark a renaissance in municipal housebuilding, and means we started work on more new council homes last year than at any time since 1983.
This new five-year programme builds on the mayor’s progress over the past four years with an emphasis on high standards and genuine affordability.
We’ll continue to block the government’s bogus definition of affordable housing, classed at up to 80% of unaffordable market rents, and the majority of the new homes built under this programme will be at traditional social rent.
The mayor has set ambitious targets for London to be a zero-carbon city by 2030 and our programme sets out new green standards including requirements for all major developments to be net-zero carbon and to incorporate sustainable urban green spaces.
After the horror of the fire at Grenfell Tower, new fire safety standards will mean the installation of sprinklers or other fire suppression systems in new blocks of flats and a ban on combustible materials in the external walls of all buildings, whatever the height. New space and light requirements will make sure homes are well designed for family life.
This new generation of social housing will set the standard nationally when it comes to excellent design, safety and sustainability. Londoners on low and ordinary incomes deserve to live in first-class, well-designed, genuinely affordable homes – this new programme is our blueprint to help make that a reality.
Tom Copley, deputy mayor for housing
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