How Boris Johnson Plans to Attract Small Builders Back to London

London Mayor Boris Johnson has launched new plans this week to solve the capital’s housing shortage, focusing on a series of measures designed to help smaller builders return to the city and compete for new development projects.

The Greater London Authority’s new housing strategy has pledged to double house building over the next decade, providing 420,000 homes. Johnson stated that smaller builders needed to be lured back to the capital after 7,000 developers had focused their attention elsewhere during the economic downturn. “We need to attract some of the big boys’ smaller competitors to come in and do some of the infield projects that would suit their businesses more.”

An injection of £1 billion from George Osborne’s affordable housing settlement will be used on a raft of new initiatives, with a focus on working with councils to identify small in-fill sites of less than 50 houses which would be ideal for new small builders. Johnson’s deputy mayor for housing, Rick Blakeway said: “We’ve got to get more builders into the market. In the 1930s the top 10 builders in London produced 7% of the output, today it would be around 70%”. Blakeway also announced that the GLA would be seeking out conversations with builders who work in other parts of the country to help them develop in London.

The GLA strategy also includes the possible creation of Housing Zones in London’s 33 ‘Opportunity Areas’, where incentives would be used to attract developers. New “village-style” garden suburbs will be established to encourage new construction, beginning with 10,000 new homes on the Barking Riverside site, as well as three large GLA sites being brought to market for 3,000 homes. Developments such as the GLA sites would be provided on the basis that large numbers of homes are available for the private rental market earlier than they would normally be in order to speed up building.

Other initiatives will include the creation of a London Housing Bank, which would offer loans for quicker building on vacant land, as well as measures to make it easier for people to buy new homes, including the expansion of the First Steps scheme where people are able to own a share of new houses.

In response to the strategy, Keepmoat Regeneration Managing Director for London, Simon Lacey, said: “It now sounds like London is going to be open for business for developers again.”

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