London's housing crisis: Five controversial solutions

 
Houses i West London House prices in the capital are rising by more than 20% a year, Office for National Statistics figures show

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As pressure to tackle London's housing crisis grows, a number of controversial views are being offered on how the problem should be addressed.

'House prices soar'. 'Fears of a housing bubble'. 'First-time buyers priced-out'. These are familiar headlines to Londoners. Each has appeared in the press in the past month, but similar headlines have become all-too recognisable over the past couple of years.

London's house prices are rising by more than 20% annually, according to latest Office for National Statistics figures.

The city needs 63,000 new homes each year, but only a third of these are being built while a "lost generation is being ruled out of ownership" due to "soaring rents, poor conditions and rising homelessness", it has been claimed.

But what alternative solutions are being put forward to tackle the issue?

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Move old people to smaller flats
Retirement home Lord Best says building 100,000 homes for the elderly could free up accommodation for 350,000 people

One in four children in London live in overcrowded homes, according to English Housing Survey figures. At the same time, thousands of single elderly people live alone in multi-bedroomed suburban properties.

In 2012, Local Government Association president Lord Richard Best proposed a radical solution: Building 100,000 homes designed especially for the needs of an ageing population.

By downsizing, older people could free up accommodation for families, helping a whole generation of first-time buyers who are priced out of the market.

"We free up lots of family housing, and we look after ourselves when we're older because, sooner or later, those three-bedroom, four-bedroom family houses are going to be too much for us," Lord Best said.

But how easy would it be to convince elderly people to move out of the home they may have lived in for most of their lives?

Peter Girling, chairman of Girlings Retirement Rentals, suggested the government should offer tax breaks to elderly people who give up their property.

"You can't force people to move but you could help them along the way," he said.

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Adopt a European attitude
broadcast tower at Alexanderplatz looms Only 16% of Berliners owned their own place, according to the 2011 census

Perhaps we should just face the fact the golden age of home ownership might be over, and learn to rent like the Germans?

According to the 2011 German census, only 16% of Berliners owned their own place, compared with 50% in London.

"People in Germany or Paris live in rented accommodation for their entire lives and there's no stigma attached," said Patricia Brown, who chairs the London Festival of Architecture.

She said following the example of Germany and enabling people to rent better properties for longer could be a solution. For instance, in Germany tenants can only be evicted with a minimum of three months' notice.

London's mayor Boris Johnson launched a voluntary accreditation scheme aimed at improving rental standards in May.

In order to be approved for the London Rental Standard, landlords are required to meet a set of commitments including "transparent fees" and "improved response times for repairs".

But Labour's London Assembly housing spokesman Tom Copley thinks the scheme does not go far enough.

He suggested three-year tenancies "as standard with caps on annual rent increases" would make "renting in London more stable".

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Build all over the green belt
The greenbelt around London Sam Bowman from the pro free market Adam Smith Institute think-tank says the greenbelt should be built on

There is still plenty of green belt land within the M25 and Sam Bowman, a research director at pro free market think-tank The Adam Smith Institute, thinks maybe the time has come to build on it.

As of 2010, London had 484,173 hectares of green belt - 3.7% of England's total land area, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Mr Bowman said this would mean "bigger homes and cheaper homes for everybody in order to give people that space to live".

But Ann Goddard, of Elstree & Borehamwood Greenbelt Society, said: "Green belt is very important. You only have to look at the English countryside. It's so pretty."

Ms Goddard, who lives in the green belt in Hertsmere, Hertfordshire - 12 miles (19km) north-west of central London and within the M25 - added: "We need green spaces for recreation purposes and to make a demarcation between the settlements."

Mr Bowman suggested a compromise could be reached "if we stopped thinking of the greenbelt as one single unit and differentiate between the areas of beauty and the intensive farmland".

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Penalise owners of empty properties
Kentish Town homes There are more than 80,000 empty properties in London

Perhaps there is not a shortage of homes for Londoners after all. More than 80,000 homes in the capital currently stand empty.

Last year, councils were empowered to use the Empty Homes Premium to charge home owners 50% more council tax if they left properties empty for two or more years.

But the results of a Freedom of Information request published by BBC London last week showed that just 4,399 of the 80,489 empty properties in the capital had been subjected to the Empty Homes Premium.

Responding to the revelations, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he was "deeply concerned".

But Daniel Astaire, Westminster Council's Conservative cabinet member for housing, said: "The way to build homes is not to tax existing homes and stop people investing and buying in our city."

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Build on brownfield sites
Chancellor George Osborne visits Barratt Homes Help to Buy housing development in Lewisham Chancellor George Osborne visited a housing development in Lewisham to launch a government-backed scheme to build on brownfield sites

Building on brownfield sites - land previously used for industrial or commercial purposes - is possibly the least controversial solution on this list.

In June, the Treasury announced 50,000 new London homes would be built on 20 such sites.

But Mr Johnson has said the scheme is a "just a fraction of what needs to be done".

The mayor has said 49,000 homes need to be built in the capital each year, while Labour puts this figure at 63,000.

But developers face problems. Brownfield land is often contaminated and expensive to clean, getting planning permission to build can be a lengthy and costly process and putting in new roads and train links can prove tricky.

But Lib Dem London Assembly member Stephen Knight said what was important was the type of homes that were built.

"We need changes to planning laws, so the government can determine certain plots of land should be used for affordable housing," he suggested.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 151.

    Please don't encourage business outside of London, don't improve transport links and don't spread the population around the country. As things stand there are some area of the country where it is at least possible for ordinary people to buy a house. Business, transport links to major cities and population all push up house prices and make living unaffordable. While we're at it ban immigration.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 150.

    I think you missed a number of solutions:

    Move DSS renters somewhere cheaper if there's no prospect of them ever escaping the benefit trap

    Move from a need-based to a contribution-based welfare system

    Move Govt depts/public employers out if they don't have to be there

    Abolish stamp duty for people trading down

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 149.

    Refreshing to see so many people are completely clear sighted about the problems + have some practical ideas as solutions (even the ones I don't agree with). If only the political class was as free of cant and humbug we might be able to have a proper debate about what needs to be done and even achieve something. Rebalancing the country is urgently needed for Londoners + the rest of the UK alike.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 148.

    @120.Steve
    I am not a tory nor ever have been, come from a very working class background, my mum was a nurse my father a factory worker. I own 3 rental properties (mortgaged) yet I saved damn hard for the deposits for them, why? I dont trust company pensions so thats where my money for my old age is invested. You assume too much! I also charge below the normal rent in my area........dont assume!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 147.

    Cap the time on how long housing benefit will be paid out on the most expensive properties why should someone receive more long term benefits than someone else just based on where they chose to dwell, not saying kick unemployed/sick out straight away but it shouldn't be that way as a lifestyle choice

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 146.

    The majority of the english population live outside of London. Ergo the majority of licence payers live outside London.

    Yet again the only HYS you've offered for ages is londoncentric.

    What about rural housing needs? No interest, as you all live in that place?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 145.

    It's not just housing, all of our infrastructure is groaning under the weight of the increased population. Roads, trains, schools, NHS etc. There are just too many people. Successive governments have allowed this country to become overpopulated through open doors policies. Perhaps after the in-out referendum we can start doing something about it.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 144.

    I would be happy to leave my home of 35 years if I could find somewhere the right size to move to. Build appropriate homes for people wanting to downsize not tiny boxes with no space to keep anything.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 143.

    The Westminster housing spokesman saying we don't want to scare off foreign investors is typical of vested interests who are profiting from the property boom. At the moment property is taxed very low compared to income. The only way to increase housing supply in the short term is to make all sales subject to capital gains tax.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 142.

    It is now time to heavily tax anyone from overseas who buys a property in London - that way, properties can be affordable for ordinary folk.

    London is becoming a rich person's playground, and not for the plebs - i.e. just as Cameron wants it to be, the snob.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 141.

    113.LondonBirdie
    106.ludwigvb
    Most people are too ignorant to take a position in for say a shop because of the late nights, weekends and finally low pay. But what do you honestly expect? A dream career to be given to you on a silver platter with a 6 figure salary?
    ==

    there are more unemployed than there are jobs so by your 'logic' the ones that don't find one should starve and be homeless. THINK!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 140.

    So Ann Goddard, who lives in the green belt says no-one else should be allowed to live in the green belt.

    Hypocracy at its finest.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 139.

    Option 6:
    Less immigration.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 138.

    My top solution:

    Ban immigration, not only would this solve the housing catastrophe ( it's worse than a crisis) it would solve 85% of Britain's ills. yes we might have to train more doctors and nurses, but that's a good thing surely, i.e. being as self-sufficient as possible.

  • rate this
    +24

    Comment number 137.

    Here are my five solutions:

    Close our borders
    Limit amount of property landlords can own
    Cap rent prices
    Heavily tax foreign landlords/investors, or for empty property
    Emigrate

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 136.

    London is overpopulated. We need plans to spread London businesses and population around the country.

    This will involve redeveloping some areas building more houses and better IT infrastructure.

    If the population of London does not stop growing, it will lead to overcrowding, bad housing and in years to come extreme social issues.

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 135.

    Ann Goddard says "you only have to look at the English countryside its so pretty" That's a real comfort to young people who face a future without owning a property, renting for life or becoming homeless!!!!!!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 134.

    So they want to build on the inner greenbelt .. this will expand the girth of London, then they'll want to build on the outer greenbelt and so on and so on .. where do they want to stop ?
    Instead of this why not make the North/South divide less and encourage businesses and work in areas other than London ?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 133.

    Governments must take responsibility and start encouraging business to move out of London, just as the opposite was done by Tories in the 80s. Where there are jobs, people will move to.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 132.

    As well as tightening up our borders, I say stop counting tiny boxes with river views on the 20th floor as 'homes'. Almost every development I see in and around London - especially along the river - is a tower or blocks of flats costing unrealistic amounts of money. I consider a proper home to be a decent-sized two- or three-bedroom house with gardens, and not enough of these are being built.

 

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    Juan Cuadrado

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    Clown service

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    15:32: Remembering Churchill

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    Winston Churchill's granddaughter and great grandson lay at wreath
     
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    Paul Kohler

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    Paul Kohler arrives at court with his wife Samantha MacArthur Paul Kohler arriving at court with his wife Samantha MacArthur

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  25.  
    14:02: Victim 'repeatedly punched in the face'
    Paul Kohler Paul Kohler said the attack destroyed the calm of a family evening

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  27.  
    13:48: Watch: Victim describes attack

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  28.  
    13:42: Previous convictions

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    Pawel Honc, Mariusz Tomaszewski, Dawid Tychon and Oskar Pawlowicz Clockwise L-R: Pawel Honc, Mariusz Tomaszewski, Dawid Tychon and Oskar Pawlowicz

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    Paul Kohler

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    13:22: Jail sentences outlined

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    • Dawid Tychon, 29, of no fixed abode, also pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and was sentenced to 13 years
     
  31.  
    13:14: Burglars jailed BREAKING NEWS

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    Regents Park villa

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    Dippy in the middle of a gala dinner, 2013. Photo by Robert Cato

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    Costa and Can clash after the alleged stamping incident

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  47.  
    10:23: Chelsea to beat Man city Robbie Savage BBC football pundit

    I have said since before the season started that Chelsea are the best team in the Premier League and I expect them to prove it tomorrow..

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  48.  
    10:12: On the frontline of London's NHS

    Frontline NHS staff in London are facing unprecedented pressure this winter, according to GP clinics and pharmacies in the capital.

    Cpmposite image

    In a series on London healthcare, BBC London political correspondent Karl Mercer has been spending time with healthcare workers on the frontline to see how they are coping with the strain.

     
  49.  
    10:02: Marksman denies murder

    Anthony Long, a former specialist firearms officer at the Met Police appeared before Mr Justice Sweeney for a plea and case management hearing.

    Mr Rodney, 24, died after officers stopped the car he was travelling in with two other men in Edgware, north London.

     
  50.  
    09:57: Marksman denies murder BREAKING NEWS

    The police firearms officer accused of murdering Azelle Rodney in 2005 has pleaded not guilty at Southwark Crown Court.

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  51.  
    09:53: News on the hour Will Shindler BBC London 94.9

    I'll be bringing you all the latest news for London in the 10:00 bulletin.

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  52.  
    09:46: Terrorism protection funding

    Scotland Yard's commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has said millions of pounds of funding is needed to protect London from terrorism.

    The national counter-terror budget currently stands at £564m, with an additional £130m set to be distributed.

     
  53.  
    09:40: 'I will drown that witch' At the Old Bailey

    The trial continues today of two women who are accused of murdering an eight-year-old girl.

    Yesterday, jurors heard an expletive-strewn phone call made by defendant Kiki Muddar, 41, in which she tells a friend she's going to kill her co-defendant's daughter Ayesha Ali.

    Polly Chowdhury (left) and Kiki Muddar (right) Polly Chowdhury (left) and Kiki Muddar (right)

    She is heard saying: "I will drown that witch. Seriously I'm going to kill her.

    "I'm going to (expletive) kill her and I'm going to go to prison tonight."

    Both Ms Muddar and Ayesha's mother Polly Chowdhury, 35, deny murder.

     
  54.  
    09:30: BBC London Travel

    Tower Bridge lifts at 1245 today for the commemoration of Sir Winston Churchill's state funeral as the Havengore, the vessel which originally carried the coffin recreates its journey from Tower Pier to Festival Pier.

     
  55.  
    09:22: Marksman in court

    The police marksmen who's accused of shooting dead robbery suspect Azelle Rodney in London 10 years ago will appear before Southwark Crown Court later.

    Azelle Rodney

    Anthony Long, an ex-specialist firearms officer with the Metropolitan Police, is expected to enter a plea.

    He's accused of killing Mr Rodney (pictured) in April 2005, after officers stopped the car he was travelling in with two other men in Edgware.

     
  56.  
    09:10: Housing woes Vanessa Feltz Presenter, BBC London 94.9

    Three quarters of Londoners say they believe there is a housing crisis in their local area - that's much higher than the national figure of 46%.

    Tell me all about housing in your area from on BBC London 94.9. Call me now on 020 7224 2000 or text 81333, starting your message 'London'.

     
  57.  
    08:59: News on the hour BBC London 94.9 Radio

    As three quarters of Londoners say they believe there is a housing crisis in the capital, Hackney MP explains why she will be going on a march to demand better housing.

    Hear that in our 09:00 bulletin.

     
  58.  
    08:51: Weekend weather via Facebook

    Alina Jenkins has a more in-depth weather forecast over on BBC London's Facebook page.

    Alina Jenkins with the London weather forecast
     
  59.  
    08:47: Fewer carriages on Thameslink trains BBC London Travel

    Thameslink trains have resumed between St Pancras and Farringdon but you may find fewer carriages than usual on quite a lot of trains.

     
  60.  
    08:40: Royal Docks Road traffic BBC London Travel

    In Beckton the A1020 Royal Docks Road is down to one lane northbound at the Beckton roundabout over the A13 due to a broken down lorry, with delays for traffic heading towards the northbound North Circular.

    For the latest updates go to our travel page or follow us on Twitter @BBCTravelAlert.

     
  61.  
    08:36: Churchill's funeral anniversary marked

    A series of events in London is set to mark the 50th anniversary of the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill today.

    Sir Winstone Churchill

    The boat which carried Sir Winston Churchill's coffin along the Thames will make the journey again and remembrance services will be held at the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

     
  62.  
    08:28: Vehicle fire on Euston Road

    The Euston Road is blocked near King's Cross station due to a vehicle fire. Emergency services are on-scene and there are queues back to Regent's Park.

    For the latest updates go to our travel page or follow us on Twitter @BBCTravelAlert.

     
  63.  
    08:19: South Eastern trains disruption BBC London Travel

    There is disruption on South Eastern trains via Ashford and Maidstone East because of a broken train. There are also delays via Higham and Gravesend following earlier signal problems.

    For the latest updates go to our travel page or follow us on Twitter @BBCTravelAlert.

     
  64.  
    08:11: Thameslink services resume after flooding

    Thameslink services have resumed after leaks and a burst water main led to more than 1,000 trains being cancelled, Network Rail says.

    Clerkenwell tunnel

    The St Pancras to Farringdon track was closed at 21:00 on Wednesday to resolve the problems.

     
  65.  
    08:05: Cold and cloudy

    Cold and rather cloudy start with a wintry mix of sleet or snow showers, turning mainly to rain during the morning.

    One or two showers for the afternoon with sunny spells, then mainly dry by evening. Brisk winds throughout.

    Maximum temperature: 6C (43F).

     
  66.  
    08:00: Good morning Rebecca Cafe BBC News

    Welcome to Friday. I'm bringing you the latest news, sport, travel and weather.

    You can email me your comments about the stories of the day or send photos or tweet @BBCLondonNews.

     

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