Where the London property industry goes in 2016 will not all be down to who wins the mayoral election in May, but it will certainly be a key factor.
As we report in our special London issue, while Boris Johnson has not been the bumbling, gaffe-prone lightweight some feared, on key issues such as the housing crisis and planning, there’s always been a whiff of the emperor’s new clothes about him (after a strenuous ride around the capital’s streets on a Boris bike, of course).
Yes, there have been a few key victories. Johnson should be congratulated for tackling the scandalous under-use of public land stock by backing TfL’s audacious plan to enlist the help of development partners to bring forward 75 sites covering 300 acres of land in the capital, for instance. He should also be applauded for his commitment to a strong growth agenda for the capital - the upshot of which has been a relationship with the property industry that has been more collaborative than combative.
But not many, other than the likes of Quidnet’s Richard Tice, will welcome his vocal support of Brexit (even if they do secretly applaud his challenge this week of David Cameron’s EU reform deal). And other victories are not really his to claim, the regeneration of Stratford following the London Olympics being a case in point.
Strip away the groundwork done by predecessor Ken Livingstone and factor in concerns about both ends of the housing market, not to mention the volatile geopolitical context and EU referendum, and his successor has their work cut out. So will it be Tory boy Zac Goldsmith or not-quite-so-Tory Labour man Sadiq Khan? Property industry people would prefer Goldsmith - no great surprise there - but let’s be honest, Khan is on the right of the left and there’s little between them in terms of policy.
Whoever wins, the priority has to be tackling the housing crisis. Without homes, London can’t house the talent and a lot of it will leave, which won’t aid the capital’s economic fortunes or the UK’s. As our eight opinion-formers note, the demographic of London is as key to its success as further inward investment, planning change and infrastructure. Turning the heart of London into even more of an enclave for the elite than it is already is not the way forward. What could be is the private rented sector, which is why the recent flurry of commitments from the likes of U+I, Grainger, L&G and a host of others is hugely encouraging.
However, it also underscores how little has been achieved to date. Noel Coward once wrote: “I don’t know what London’s coming to - the higher the buildings the lower the morals.” Perhaps it’s time for the industry to demonstrate that when it comes to housing, the opposite is now more apt - and the lower the buildings, the higher the morals.