Politicians love to denounce developers for concreting over green space with soulless new blocks, while progressive voices hate gentrification driving out the poor for luxury flats. Election candidates seek votes to stop developers “running amok” and “riding roughshod” over locals, and Ministers relieve councils from having to meet ‘Stalinist’ housebuilding targets.
But it seems people actually quite like housebuilding, even when it’s near them.
Pollsters Redfield and Wilton Strategies surveyed 1,100 eligible voters in London from 10-12 June, and weighted the respondents to match the population. Alongside voting intention for next year’s Mayoral election they added some questions suggested by independent website OnLondon to look at underlying attitudes.
When asked, a full 63% supported “an increase in house and apartment building in London”. Although support was strongest from working age respondents, even those over 65 were clearly supportive (57%, with 23% opposed). Differences between inner and outer London were not great.
Just in case of NIMBYism, the poll question was tweaked to ask about increasing housebuilding “in your area”. The change meant support dropped – but only to 58%. This five point change was broadly mirrored across all groups.
Two other findings from the poll are worth mentioning. Women are ten percentage points more opposed to building houses than are men (22% against 12%, rising to 28% against 18% when it’s building ‘in your area’). Second, when Londoners were asked who had most power over housing in London, there was an even split between those picking the Prime Minister and those saying it was the Mayor.
OnLondon’s creator Dave Hill has written many times criticising “simplistic and misleading populism” narratives of gentrification and social cleansing. Freelance writer and former New Statesman assistant Jonn Elledge is known for his YIMBY stance of “build more bloody houses”.
From the centre-right, Robert Colvile of the Centre for Policy Studies and CapX regularly argues in the Sunday Times that a massive increase in housebuilding is not merely popular, but is essential for the future of Conservatism.
The public want more houses, and know perfectly well that can’t be done without individual schemes being allowed. People are not stupid; give more of them the right to speak and developers are likely to get a nice surprise.
Dave Hill on ‘gentrification’: https://www.onlondon.co.uk/brick-lane-anatomy-of-an-east-end-anti-gentrification-rage/