Sadiq Khan quizzes Londoners on ‘home for Covid-19 heroes’ plan

The London Mayor wants to give key workers priority access to buy or rent homes below market rates in recognition of their role in the Covid-19 response

Plans to give key workers the pick of houses as a thank you for their “heroic” work during the Covid-19 pandemic are moving a step forward as Sadiq Khan launches a consultation on the idea.

The London Mayor is asking citizens to give their thoughts on intermediary housing – affordable housing targeted at people unlikely to access homes at social rent levels or unable to rent or buy on the open market.

And chief among the ideas to tackle the housing crisis in the English capital is the proposed creation of a new key worker list to give nurses, police officers and teachers the chance to find buy or rent homes below market rates.

Housing costs have driven far too many Londoners away from our great city, robbing us of their skills and expertise

Salaries for occupations traditionally defined as ‘key workers’, including education, health care and emergency services, are often around between £25,000 and £45,000 in London. This means many are eligible for shared ownership homes (having a household income of up to £90,000 per annum) or intermediate rented homes (having a household income of up to £60,000 per annum).

Khan is looking to clear up the criteria to determine who can access intermediary housing to understand how best to include key workers and wants to hear from Londoners on which occupations should be featured in the list.

The consultation also looks at how affordability can be improved, what more can be done to support delivery of new homes and how the transparency and consistency of allocation of these homes can be increased across London.

Mayor 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.

“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.”

London’s greatest housing need is for social rent homes, which have been continually under-delivered by successive governments across the country as well as in the capital.

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Khan maintains that it is a priority to build more social rent homes, but claims that government restrictions mean that funding must be spent on delivering affordable homes.

Joint research between the Greater London Authority and the G15 group of large London housing associations found that delivering 32,500 affordable homes each year – with 70 per cent as social rented homes, 20 per cent as shared ownership and 10 per cent as intermediate rented homes – would require a capital funding settlement of £4.9 billion a year between 2022 and 2032. A figure Khan says is seven-times more than the Government currently grants London.

But London assembly member Andrew Boff has described the plans as “yet another PR distraction from Sadiq Khan to hide his failure to build the homes he promised Londoners”.

Nursing pay has not kept pace with the cost of living in the capital

He said: “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.”

But Lisa Elliott, Royal College of Nursing regional director for London, has welcomed the move. She 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.

“RCN London has previously called for the introduction of incentives such as affordable living rents for nursing staff. With over 9,000 vacant nursing posts in London’s NHS, initiatives outlined in today’s consultation will be key to helping keep nursing staff in the capital and help attract more in the future.”