By Ruairi Casey
LONDON, Nov 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - London's mayor said on Wednesday that he will tackle a chronic housing shortage by allowing denser construction and developing small sites like gardens and shops, in a move criticised by one opponent as a "garden grab".
London mayor Sadiq Khan set a new London-wide house building target by 2029 of 650,000 new homes - more than double the current rate - and removed rules that fixed the maximum number of houses per development.
"With London's population expected to increase by 70,000 every year ... it's vital we properly plan for growth with new affordable homes in every area of the capital," he said in a statement.
"I am using all of the powers at my disposal in my first draft London Plan to tackle the housing crisis head on," he said, referring to the long-awaited strategy.
A chronic housing shortage has pushed prices up by 90 percent in the past decade as London has failed to meet house-building objectives.
"We know that we need many more homes that people can afford in London and welcome the ambitious housing targets," said Melanie Rees, head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Housing.
But an opposition politician dismissed the strategy as a "garden grab" which will see families "crammed into rabbit hutch developments".
"Sadiq Khan has declared war on the suburbs," Andrew Boff, a Conservative member of the London Assembly, a body elected to hold the mayor's office to account, said in a statement.
"(We are) facing a land grab for every inch of garden in our capital."
University College London planning expert Michael Edwards said that removing density limits may also drive up land prices.
"I think it's a mistake," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "Developers (will) bid more and more for land in competition with each other and drive the price up because they know they can get the money back by building more densely."
(Reporting by Ruairi Casey @Ruairi_Casey, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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