London Mayor: Housing?

Adam McDonnellAssociate Director of Political and Social Research
April 23, 2012, 2:58 PM UTC

1 in 4 Londoners says it's a big issue – so why aren't the Mayoral candidates discussing housing?

According to our most recent poll, a quarter of Londoners think affordable housing is a key issue the Mayor of London should focus on, with this figure rising to a third when just looking at Ken voters.

Despite this, housing has not emerged as a real issue in any of the main candidates’ campaigns.

When we asked Londoners which issues they thought the Mayor of London should focus on, we found that significant numbers see housing as one of the key issues.

  • 43% say tackling crime
  • 40% say improving transport
  • 31% said that the cost of living in London should be an important focus for the Mayor
  • 26% said creating jobs
  • And 25% said that creating affordable housing should be a priority

Why does housing not figure more in the Mayoral campaigns?

The candidates' lack of focus on high house prices could be due to the fact that for the majority of Londoners, this is not an issue they are faced with on a daily basis. In the short term, it is only those currently in the housing market who are directly affected by the cost of housing, and thus campaigning on this issue does not preach to the masses.

In contrast, a large proportion of Londoners use public transport every day, and crime within the capital continues to be prominent on both local and national news agendas, not least since the summer riots last year ‒ making these issues more obvious choices for candidates on which to centre the Mayoral campaigns.  

Popularity contest?

The mayoral election has been criticised by some as being a popularity contest that will be decided on 'personality not policies' – seen recently, for example, during the controversy surrounding Ken’s taxes, which caused him to slump in the polls, while Boris’s 'lift incident' featured heavily in the press in the days that followed.

If the election is to be won on policies, they need to be short and snappy in order to catch the voters’ eye, whether that is Ken’s fare cut pledge or Boris’s promise to tackle crime in the city.

While the Mayor does have some power over housing allocation and development, this often involves a lot of negotiation with local councils and long term planning, meaning that the mayoral hopefuls' hands are largely tied when it comes to promising immediate and simple results.

With just over a week to go before London heads to the polls, it is likely that housing issues will remain on the sidelines, overshadowed by an election that will be centred on crime, transport and, ultimately, simply whether Londoners prefer Boris or Ken.

See the latest London Mayoral survey results and full details here