Mayor of Newham backs call for extra money to reboot the housing sector in wake of coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz has welcomed a report from a housing taskforce that demands significant funding be provided by the Government to reboot the housing sector in the wake of Covid-19 and build the homes that Newham and London needs.
Mayor Fiaz is a member of the Covid-19 Housing Delivery Taskforce, set up in April by Tom Copley, London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, to tackle the challenges that coronavirus has posed to the Capital’s housing sector. It is made up of leaders from across London’s housing delivery sector including councils, construction bodies, unions, and housing associations.
Mayor Fiaz said: “It hasn’t been a surprise that Covid-19 has disproportionately affected boroughs like Newham where factors of poor housing, high levels of health and housing inequality, poverty and deprivation, and a large Black and Minority Ethnic community, are at play.
“I was clear with the taskforce that affordability and quality of new homes for Newham residents and Londoners, many of whom were key workers during the pandemic, was not up for negotiation. That is reflected in the report, but what we now need is for the Government to give councils what we need to address the chronic shortage of affordable housing in Newham and elsewhere. If coronavirus has shown us nothing else, and if we need a lasting, positive legacy to those we have lost, then it is in the form of the affordable homes that Newham and London needs.”
When Mayor Fiaz was elected in 2018 she promised to start building at least 100 homes in the first year of her administration, and 1,000 over her four-year term. Work has already started on more than 260 new homes across 14 sites in Newham.
In 2019, more than £107m in grant funding was awarded to Newham by the Mayor of London to help Mayor Fiaz deliver her housing pledge. It was the highest allocation to a council in London.
The Mayor added: “We have already kick-started a significant municipal house-building programme in Newham in response to the housing crisis, including pressing developers to deliver homes at social rent levels that our residents can afford. We are also developing a new housing delivery strategy, which we will consider in line with our Covid-19 recovery strategy towards a better Newham, and will present to residents soon.”
In addition to the call for more resources to support the recovery of the house-building sector, the task force report also highlights the need for the industry to ensure the safety and health of construction workers and residents during its recovery phase.
Mayor Fiaz added: “Supported by our housing provider Populo Living, we have already been working with our home-building contractors to ensure workers have clear guidance on social distancing and on travelling to and from construction sites.”
The taskforce recommends that the Government, councils and the Mayor of London should strengthen pathways into construction apprenticeships and employment. Newham, as part of its community wealth building and inclusive economy strategies, is already committed to supporting young people to access a variety of education and skills pathways, including securing and achieving good quality apprenticeship outcomes so that they can achieve good quality employment.
The Government, Mayor of London and councils are also recommended to proactively support small-scale housing developments through identification of suitable sites. Last summer Newham started work on preparing underused council-owned land to build homes and since October 2019, 13 planning applications for an additional 137 homes across different sites were submitted.
The full report of the taskforce can be found at: www.london.gov.uk/housing-delivery-taskforce