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  • Since Boris Johnson became mayor of London almost 8 years ago, the city has experienced the biggest housing challenge since the Victorian era.

  • And as he prepares to leave office early next year, the crisis is still far from solved.

  • Since 2008, London's economy and population have boomed, pushing house prices to above their previous pre-financial crisis high.

  • The price of an average London home has increased by 44% since Mr. Johnson took office in May 2008.

  • As a result, housing is the issue on every Londonist's lips.

  • Soaring house prices have been accompanied by an influx of foreign cash,

  • triggering heated arguments about who should live in the new high-rise towers beginning to dot the skyline.

  • Loose lower capital from less safe economic regions like Russia, China, and the middle east

  • have been heading for the residential property markets in London and New York principally.

  • This is taking out the top-end of property from the London market, because it's appeared merely being used as safe deposit boxes for this capital.

  • This then has an effect in pulling the rest of the market upwards.

  • Couple that with a lack of supply, and you'll see why prices are skyrocketing.

  • As in the Victorian era, Mr. Johnson believed Londonists should be housed within the city's boundaries.

  • When the capital's population grew rapidly in the 19th century, areas like Belgravia were built in a construction boom.

  • London's population has grown by nearly 730,000 people since Boris Johnson took office. He, too, faces a housing challenge.

  • Mr. Johnson's first target in 2008 was to build 32,000 homes a year.

  • Now, that figure has been revised up to 49,000, and some people say the city needs more than 60,000 a year.

  • But despite upping the target, London built just 20,520 homes in 2014 and 15.

  • Meanwhile, the affordability crisis has pushed the generation out of home ownership and into the private renting sector, Boris Johnson's critics claim.

  • I think that he's made city hall a make-up for property developers all across the world, and we need that investments to build the homes that we need.

  • The problem is that we're not actually building the homes that we need. The homes are being built at 1 million, 2 million more,

  • and what we really need is homes for people who can, you know, work as a teacher, as a police officer and still have a safe, affordable place that they can call home.

  • And too often we see those developers who have sort of skirting their affordability, obligations,

  • and that's really gonna have a big effect on the job market as we already see entry level jobs are being hard to fill because people just can't afford to live in the city anymore.

  • In a bid to tackle the problem, Mr. Johnson and colleagues have shifted from myriad fragmented-funding programs to a holistic approach,

  • focused primarily on the native specific neighborhoods called housing zones.

  • One of the things that we've seen in recent years, even though London's had a buoyant market,

  • is that actually there's only a handful of areas, a handful of bureaus that have contributed significant numbers of new homes.

  • So what we're doing is working in partnership with both the private sector and local government, local authorities, to designate 20 areas of London,

  • to make sure that we have a real focus around accelerating residential house building activity,

  • whether that be around the transport node, whether that be around a town-centered region and ration,

  • or whether that be around turning Brownfield land, usually ex-industrial land, into new homes, beautiful new homes.

  • Critics say much more could have been done during Mr. Johnson's time in office. But City Hall says it needs more power.

  • So Mr. Johnson has initiated the biggest expansion of local power since The Greater London Council was abolished by Margaret Thatcher in 1986.

  • He has added control over housing policy and spending to the mayor's primary area of responsibility, transport.

  • When the JLA was originally set up, it could've invested in housing, now it can't.

  • I think it's also really really important as a strong role for London government in assembling land,

  • so that we can go in that and really transform a place and look at the powers that we have and the resource that we have in order to enable that.

  • Mr. Johnson will leave office next spring, and London is set to see a fierce battle to be his successor.

  • His housing power grab will leave the next mayor as the most powerful politician London has seen for a generation.

  • K. Tailen, Financial Times, London.

Since Boris Johnson became mayor of London almost 8 years ago, the city has experienced the biggest housing challenge since the Victorian era.

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Tackling London's housing crisis | FT World

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    Ray Du posted on 2015/10/15
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