Posted by Prof Ian Gordon, SERC and LSE
What the first snippets of data from the 2011 Census show is that since the Millennium London’s population has been growing about as fast as Mayoral Plans have imagined – but without much of the extra housing intended to accommodate it.
It’s happened despite this for two basic reasons. One is that newly arrived migrants from poorer countries have been packed in at higher densities. The other is that the traditional route for established Londoners to acquire more living space - moving out to buy houses in more affordable areas outside London - has got increasingly choked off. First supposedly ‘pro-city’ policies empowered NIMBYs to resist land release for housing in the South East - and then the banking crisis closed affordable finance to first time buyers.
It’s dangerous to draw more than the simplest conclusions from the Census’s first ‘headline’ growth figures for London. But it is clear that the way in which this growth has been accommodated over the last ten years is not a sustainable one. It is time to drop the complacent claim that London can (or will) house all ‘its own’ population growth, and get back to planning how the wider economic region can provide decent housing for its dynamic population.
A version of this post first appeared in the Evening Standard letters page, July 17th 2012.