Key workers like nurses, teachers, and police officers could be given priority access to more affordable housing in the capital under proposals drawn up by Sadiq Khan.
The Mayor of London said the pandemic had shown how such workers were needed to keep London running “even during a time of crisis”.
Vast swathes of the capital are unaffordable for people on lower and middle salaries, with average rents in many inner areas coming to 75 per cent of average incomes by some measures.
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Under the Mayor’s plan, part of a wider consultation on the future of housing policy in London, shared ownership homes overseen by the Mayor and those offered at London Living Rent would be first offered to certain occupations.
Mr Khan said: “Londoners know how much we value and depend on the hard work of the key workers who keep London running even during a time of crisis.
“Housing costs have driven far too many Londoners away from our great city, robbing us of their skills and expertise. Intermediate housing, alongside much-needed homes for social rent, can play a vital role in turning that tide.”
The Mayor added: “I want to hear from Londoners and our partners about how I can best support London’s key workers to be able to access a safe and secure home that they can afford. By helping people buy or rent a home below the market rate we encourage them to put down roots, become part of a community and help London thrive.”
But the Conservatives dismissed the move. London assembly member Andrew Boff, said the plans were “yet another PR distraction from Sadiq Khan to hide his failure to build the homes he promised Londoners”.
“If Khan wants to help London’s Covid heroes put down roots in our city, he urgently needs to review his housing policies which are failing to deliver homes fit for families,” Mr Boff said.
Other countries have taken a more radical approach: in the Portugese capital of Lisbon, properties previously let out to tourists on websites like Airbnb have been repurposed as key worker housing.
Mr Khan has previously said the next election would be a de facto referendum on rent controls on private rented housing in London, but introducing such a policy requires the cooperation of the government in Westminster.
Key workers previously received discounts some kinds of housing in London and the South East, including under the government-backed Key Worker Living scheme introduced in 2006. Though the scheme has ended, some housing associations continue to offer priority to some key workers.
Nursing groups welcomed the new proposals from City Hall. Lisa Elliott, Royal College of Nursing Regional Director for London, said: “As key workers, nursing staff play a crucial role in caring for Londoners, and COVID-19 is a prime example of nursing staff going above and beyond for their patients.
“Despite their commitment to the city’s health, London’s nursing community is being left behind. Nursing pay has not kept pace with the cost of living in the capital. In a survey earlier this year, our members told us that the cost of housing is forcing them out of the capital. For those who have already decided to leave London, eight out of ten respondents told us it was because of the high cost of accommodation.”
Helen Evans, Chair of the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations and Chief Executive of Network Homes, said: “Housing associations stand ready to support the key workers who have kept our country going through this pandemic.
“Our key workers deserve the chance to secure safe, sustainable accommodation that they can afford to live in long-term. Whilst we continue to push for the social rented homes London needs, it is vital we also have options for those who struggle to afford private rents or are locked out of the housing market.”