The new business-led housing campaign Fifty Thousand Homes is striking not just due to the impressive number of CEOs they’ve signed up but because businesses are joining together to ask the question: where will ordinary working people live? Housing organisations across the board have long made the case that the construction sector is critical to UK plc. But what today’s campaign launch signals is that the impact of high housing costs on attracting workers is having a serious impact on business competitiveness, particularly in London.
At Shelter our concern is that people have a home that is genuinely affordable, as well as being decent and secure. With house prices in London now more than 12 times the average London wage and rents taking up half of take home pay, an affordable place to live is far out of reach of many families. Fifty Thousand Homes have put the impact on ordinary people front and centre of their rallying call and we were pleased to join up.
Seeing senior leaders at organisations like HSBC and John Lewis compelled to speak out on this issue establishes beyond doubt that housing is set to be the defining issue of the London Mayoral contest next year. But while it’s clear that housing will be talked about more than any other issue in the election, what we need now is action, not just words.
The election campaign in London will play out against a backdrop of national government policy that risks phasing out homes affordable to people on typical incomes in favour of homes for higher earners. The result is a bit more home ownership for the already wealthy, with working people on typical incomes consigned to expensive, unstable private renting for life. The human impact of that is considerable but today’s campaign launch indicates that this also has significant ramifications for businesses trying to recruit staff in high cost areas.
The next Mayor will have a huge opportunity to do something about this and lead the way for the rest of the country – not just in building houses and flats but delivering homes that are genuinely affordable for ordinary people.