Housing zones will provide an important fillip for the residential sector in London, helping to hit targets and placemaking ideals.
That was one of the key messages to emerge this morning as deputy mayor Richard Blakeway and GLA’s David Lunts explained how London stands to gain some 50,000 homes out of the first 20 zones and up to 100,000 jobs.
Blakeway said that the zones, launched all around – mostly outer – London represent one of the most important parts of the mayor’s efforts to try and double housebuilding. But each zone was like a Rubik’s cube, Blakeway said with different conditions in each. The zones have flexibility at their heart but require three things to be successful – focus, planning certainty and money, Blakeway added.
Lunts, executive director for housing and land at the GLA, said the ‘exciting’ initiative was intended to meet London’s need for ‘fast and good quality homes’ but the zones have an expected lifespan of up to 10 years. ‘These are not short-term fixes’, he said. ‘These are long-term commitments’. Lunts said he expects to see local authorities putting their own land in and that GLA is turning the system on its head by organising its funding and investment to support the particular needs of projects. The first nine zones, announced last month, are spread around London in Harrow, Clapham, Barking, Tottenham, Southall, Hounslow, New Bermondsey and two sites in Thamesmead, with a good proportion of affordable housing ‘but by no means 100%’. £260m of GLA funding has already been allocated, of which £154m will be repaid. In turn this will help attract more than £9.4bn of investment, create over 56,000 construction jobs and accelerate the building of 28,000 new homes, 9,000 of which will be affordable. ‘We’re patient investors but wherever possible we do want to recycle our funding’, said Lunts. Areas such as Southall in Ealing will benefit from the housing zone investment ‘accelerating things’, capitalizing on Crossrail even before it comes, while Tottenham Hale’s well-connected nature will also be a beneficiary, with a number of announcements on the area to be made in the coming days, said Lunts.
The conference also heard from Waltham Forest senior housing advisor, housing and growth, Ken Jones, who detailed the area’s broader target of 12,000 homes built or in development by 2020. ‘There’s a real sense, not just in the council but in the housing world generally that we’re on the cusp in Waltham Forest of a real take-off in housing delivery’, said Jones. The housing zone in the area is split between 2,500 homes in Blackhorse Lane and around the same number in the northern Olympic Park area. Hounslow’s director regeneration, economic development and environment at Hounslow Brendon Walsh said his area will include a move of the civic centre to make way for new homes. ‘All the big pluses are as a result of the housing zone money coming in’, he said. ‘It just means we can do things that much quicker’. Finally, RB Greenwich’s Tom Travers and Peabody’s Jeremy Stibbe outlined how housing zone designation could transform Thamesmead, both in physical regeneration terms, ‘delivering homes that will be affordable to ordinary working Londoners, and in its perception amongst the public, with new schools and parks aimed at attracting new people into the area.
David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly