Morning business news - July 31Thursday 31 July 2014 12.08
With a booming population, and a constant stream of new arrivals looking to find a home, London is facing an acute housing problem that is pushing people away from the heart of the city.
During a visit to a new development on the city’s north-eastern fringes, major Boris Johnson said that good transport links were vital as the English capital continued its rapid expansion.
“Transport infrastructure makes all the difference to the prospects of a community,” he said.
“We’re seeing huge growth in London we’re seeing huge numbers of people who want to live here, population is about to exceed 8.6m for the first time in history - London is going to be as big as it’s ever been.”
He said that these new developments were not too far away from the city centre as to make it a burden for commuters, however he accepted that more work was needed to make them accessible as well as attractive in their own right.
“The growth on its own is not enough, it’s not just about having more homes and more jobs,” he said.
“It’s about the quality of people’s lives; it’s about what the community is like and what it’s like to live there.
Mr Johnson also said that the issue of vacant properties – which contributed to problems in some of the more traditional areas of the city – also had to be addressed.
“That has long been a problem, he said.
“There are always people from overseas – including Irish people –w ho buy homes in London and that’s great, provided they live in them and use them.”
He said he wanted councils to apply a “punitive” tax on unoccupied homes in order to prompt the owner to either use them, or move on. However he pointed out that such a measure had to be used with care, as many of those dwellings were not belonging to the rich, but rather normal people who had left them unoccupied for other reasons.