Approvals for much-needed new homes in London plummeted 64% over the year in the first quarter of 2016 ahead of the mayoral election on 5 May. The city's housing supply crisis has seen rents and house prices rocket in recent years.
The London New Homes Monitor by estate agent Stirling Ackroyd recorded permission granted for 4,230 homes across the capital in the first three months of the year, down from 11,870 during the same period in 2015.
Planning applications from developers also dropped by 51% annually to 7,050 potential new units. The report said four in ten homes were rejected by London's planning authorities in the first quarter, representing an approval rate of 61% — well down year-on-year from 82%.
"It's a sluggish and disappointing start to 2016, which should be a year of real progress," said Andrew Bridges, managing director of Stirling Ackroyd. "In an election year, the most frustrating side to the slow pace of planning departments is that London has the drive, capacity and ability to take control of its housing problems.
"Londoners want change. And if you believe all the mayoral candidates' speeches – everyone wants a positive outcome too. But change isn't happening. The number of homes are falling to new lows, contributing to a completely unfair and immoral housing shortfall."
Housing is the number one issue for London's voters when they head to the polls to choose the successor to Conservative Boris Johnson, the city's mayor since 2008. Both Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate, and Zac Goldsmith, his Conservative rival, are pledging to get housebuilding up to the 50,000 new homes a year needed to meet escalating demand. London's growing population is expected to reach 10 million by 2030.
The Stirling Ackroyd report mirrors statistics from JLL, a property services firm, showing the number of new housing starts by private developers had stalled in central London. Neil Chegwidden, director of residential research at JLL, said there were around 8,000 new housing starts by private developers in both the first and second halves of 2015.
Stripping out the 1,700 starts in Canary Wharf, which Chegwidden called "exceptional", the picture looks even more alarming. And the number of units seeking planning permission in the city tumbled from around 25,000 to 20,000 between the two halves of 2015. "This is all pretty worrying given that we should be building more homes rather than less homes," Chegwidden said.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the average price of a London home jumping 9.7% over the year to February 2016 to £524,000. Across England, the average rose 8.2% to £298,000.