Mark Boleat

Mark Boleat: Solution to the housing crisis is to be more European and build at higher densities

This news commentary from Mark Boleat first appeared in the London Evening Standard here.

The debate on housing in London is moving in the right direction but there is still some way to go. The long-term solution lies in forging a close and successful co-operation between local authorities and the private sector to unlock new homes in space that is not being used efficiently.

There is one way in which we can solve London’s housing crisis — and it does not involve rent controls, a policy that would do more to intensify our supply problem than fix it. The solution is to build at higher densities. This does not mean “concreting over the whole of London”, masses of high-rise towers, or making London look like Singapore or Hong Kong.

It means bringing London into line with other European capitals such as Paris and Madrid. It’s about delivering more homes in less space and improving Londoners’ standard of living. The truth is that we are more sparsely spread than many of our European neighbours. Compare for instance Islington, one of London’s densest boroughs with a 200,000 population living at an average of 138 people per hectare, with Madrid’s Centro district, which has 150,000 people living at an average of 286 people per hectare. We need to build more terraced housing and low-rise apartment blocks, particularly in areas that currently have a low density but well-connected transport. Doing this won’t result in us all living on top of each other, but it will increase our housing supply and our living standards.

London First thinks we can create 1.4 million new homes across London if we adopt this strategy. A full one million more than the current 10-year house-building target. Working together we can do more to solve the London housing crisis.

Mark Boleat is Chairman of The Housing & Finance Institute