July 11, 2017 / 11:37 AM / a month ago

London mayor recruits architects to build "inclusive" city

LONDON, July 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - London's mayor says he has recruited a team of architects and designers to help build socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable communities, as the British capital's population grows toward 10 million people.

Sadiq Khan said the city, with a population of 8.7 million, faces a "mammoth task" to rectify a failure to deal with decades of poorly planned growth, and begin building the 50,000 new homes Londoners need each year.

"Today, we face another wave of growth, the likes of which we've not seen for a century," Khan said in a speech at the London School of Economics (LSE) on Monday to launch his 'Good Growth by Design' programme.

"In recent years, too much focus has been dedicated to developing the high-price, high-rise central London market. These expensive developments... haven't delivered the genuinely affordable homes ordinary Londoners desperately need."

Tony Travers, director of LSE's research centre for London, said the city's population is predicted to rise by 100,000 a year, exceeding 10 million by 2030.

Across London, average property prices have risen 90 percent in the past decade, and a report by the mayor's office in February said a lack of affordable housing is depriving Londoners of the security of home ownership.

Khan said the team of 50 design advisers, including Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye and fashion designer Wayne Hemingway, are the first of a new generation he will bring in to guide the city toward inclusive growth.

A new scheme aims to fast-track talented designers and planners from across the city into year-long placements in local authorities.

Khan said the new programme would reverse the drain of urban design expertise from local councils, after a massive fall in the proportion of architects employed in the public sector since the 1970s.

Khan said the explosion in the number of skyscrapers and drastic changes to the city skyline under his predecessor Boris Johnson had failed to provide the homes regular Londoners need.

Such growth has left Londoners with a housing crisis where rapid gentrification forces diverse communities from the city and strains local services, according to Khan.

"Allowing this kind of unbalanced, unfocused and unsustainable growth is leaving many Londoners feeling excluded and left behind," he said.

In 2015, the year before Khan took office, 13 percent of houses built were "affordable" - which can cost up to 80 percent of market rates - down from one third in 2007, according to London Annual Monitoring Report.

Khan said he would aim for more than 35 percent. (Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)

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