Housing Zones were introduced by the previous mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who designated 31 areas to receive funding and support to develop difficult sites. Interest in the programme has been so high that bid requests have outstripped the funding available.
Future of London’s Housing Zones Progress Report, launched 26 January, concludes that Housing Zones are accelerating house-building in the capital, largely as a result of the flexibility around how funding may be used.
Speaking at the launch, Alexei Schwab, Head of Programme at Future of London, introduced the report’s findings: Housing Zones contacts interviewed were broadly positive about the programme’s impact, with some saying their schemes had been brought forward by 3-5 years. In terms of increasing the amount of housing and affordable housing, effects differed across zones.
Measures frequently mentioned as having speeded up projects were early-stage funding for land consolidation and leaseholder buyouts, infrastructure and remediation work, and transport and access improvements.
Neil Hook, Senior Area Manager at the GLA, presented an update on the HZ programme and introduced some changes for 2017, including how new affordability guidelines will affect Housing Zones, non-financial support options and measures the GLA has taken to respond to concerns about paperwork and staffing.
Many report interviewees said that Housing Zones had encouraged a closer working relationship between councils and the GLA, and had brought increased interest from private-sector developers.
Alison Thomas, Head of Housing Strategy, Partnerships and Affordable Housing, LB Tower Hamlets, spoke about the effect of the Poplar Riverside Housing Zone, which will support the delivery of around 4,000 homes over 10 sites. An indicative funding allocation of £52m will be used to fund affordable housing, access improvements, land assembly, remediation and leaseholder buyouts.
Housing Zones practitioners interviewed for the report said that in many cases non-financial support has proved effective in accelerating delivery; in particular, high-level council and GLA backing for the zones has made them more attractive to developers.
Tom Goodall, Project Director at Argent LLP, which is active in the Tottenham Housing Zone in Haringey, noted that a pro-active and supportive public sector is crucial to realise London’s development capacity – and to ensure that new homes and neighbourhoods are high quality.
The 31 zones have an ambitious delivery timetable, with interim targets in 2018 and programmes to end by 2026. With Brexit and government housing policy creating uncertainty in the sector, continued focus on Housing Zones from councils, developers and the GLA will be crucial to maintaining early momentum.
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- 31 Housing Zones in London across 23 boroughs
- Over 77,000 homes funded*
- 27,000 affordable homes funded*
- 6400 hectares of land inside Housing Zones
*Indicative figures; source: london.gov.uk
View the presentations from the launch event:
Future of London’s Housing Zones Network, backed by the GLA, is designed to support all local authority, housing association and pan-London teams working on Housing Zones. The network offers best practice, technical guidance, GLA updates and networking