The new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has a tough job on his hands. Though London is thriving, the capital faces some serious headwinds. I explored some of these in a series of articles for Forbes.
Ask any young Londoner who wasn’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth about the biggest challenge of living in London, and the reply will be near unanimous: the cost of housing. A growing population, constrained by a greenbelt with insufficient new builds has pushed prices, wallets and purses to breaking point. Many young people have no prospect of getting on the housing ladder.
Khan vowed not to build on London’s greenbelt in the election campaign, but hopefully this was just political posturing to nullify Zac Goldsmith’s green credentials. At least 50,000 houses need to be built each year for the next decade just to meet demand, but Khan has so far only prioritised redeveloping brownfield sites. Though we might be able to squeeze 365,720 new homes out of brownfield land within the Greater London Authority area, it would be difficult, expensive and take up to 10-15 years to repurpose for housing. However, as analysis from Centre for Cities has shown, more than 430,000 homes could be built at suburban densities, close to train stations and on just 2 per cent of London’s greenbelt. But it’s not just housing. We also need more commercial property. The rising cost of business rents is depressing enterprise, investment and growth.
Besides building, Khan needs to continue Boris Johnson’s work of ensuring London’s public transport is fit for purpose. It might cost a lot of money, but given that all private capital has been crowded out of the sector, all we can do is throw money at the problem until someone comes up with a better idea of idea. Khan’s idea of freezing Londoners’ fares isn’t top of the list.
In his role as representing Britain’s largest city, Khan should also lobby central government hard. Immigration policies and the inability to access the right talent are critical issues for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Pat Saini of Penningtons calls for the introduction of a Third Party Sponsorship (TPS) visa, which would “allow overarching entities such as accelerators, incubators and venture capital firms to sponsor migrants on behalf of companies in which they have invested or for whom they are providing services/resources and to bring the necessary skills to the UK for the benefit of that company.” We suggested something similar for entrepreneurs in our report Made in the UK.
Khan might not have the charisma of Boris, but if he gets stuck into the nitty gritty of policy he could go one better than having a bike named after him – he could make London the best city in the world to live and work.