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Priority housing to end Met brain drain, London mayor pledges

Plans to prioritise officers and staff for affordable homes could stem the brain drain from the Metropolitan Police.
Published - 12/03/2021 By - Chris Smith

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has announced plans to help new recruits and staff buy a home in the capital.

They will be added to a list run by the Mayor’s office of essential London workers - also including NHS and firefighters - who will be given priority  access to buy or rent homes below market rates.

Last November the Met re-introduced London residency requirements for recruits. For most forms of entry there is now a requirement that the applicant has lived or studied in one of London's Boroughs for three out of the previous six years when they apply to join. 

Mayor Khan says an order will be set in planning guidance for local authorities to use the list to give people in Blue Light occupations help to get on the property ladder.

They will be offered two options: London Shared Ownership and London Living Rent where they either rent a new build home or buy it in stages – usually through a housing association.

Sadiq Khan said: “London’s key workers are the lifeblood of our city and we all depend on their hard work every day – to keep us safe, to care for us, and to provide other essential services.

“Making it easier for key workers to live in the city they serve with such dedication is the very least they deserve. Housing costs have driven far too many Londoners away, robbing us of their skills and expertise. Providing more access to Intermediate housing, alongside much-needed homes for social rent, will play a vital role in turning that tide.”

Both Federation and Metropolitan Police Chiefs have warned that staff have been priced out of living in the capital.

All of the police housing stock was sold off to counter austerity budget cuts leaving officers to fend for themselves.

The UK needs to build 300,000 new homes year but has not done this since 1979 and most starter developments do not focus on low income groups.

It’s a critical issue, highlighted in a Police Oracle interview last year by Assistant Chief Constable of Suffolk Rob Jones. He moved from the Met and said many others are going because of house prices.

The Fed has warned the price barrier has created killer commutes that are forcing officers to drive or bike in for up to two hours a day in all weather conditions.

ACC Jones also warned that it is a barrier to effective intelligence and diversity as an increasing number of officers have no connection to local neighbourhoods.

A  Probationary Officer’s wage is £30,294 including nearly £7,000 for weighting and allowances.

The Mayor’s announcement revealed just how big the barrier to getting a home is for them.

The median average price of a flat in London is £426,000 – which can be more than 13 times a nurse’s income.

Although a start, the number of new developments remains low.  The number of shared ownership homes completed in the year to end of March 2020 was 3,111.

The number of homes at social rent levels started in London has also increased from zero in the last year of Boris Johnson’s term as mayor to more than 7,000 last year.

Increasing housing will be essential if the Met is to hold onto more of its staff. The force is 33,000-strong and is taking a quarter of the 6,000 new Uplift recruits.

The scheme is being supported by the capital’s housing associations who have targets for new-build developments.

Chair of the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations, Helen Evans said: “Everyone needs a safe, secure and affordable home. Many of the key workers who have done such a fantastic job keeping essential services running during the pandemic, struggle to afford a home reasonably near to where they work.

“The G15 fully supports the Mayor’s aim of ensuring London’s key workers have access to the safe, secure and affordable homes they deserve.”

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