London mayor calls for new 12-month construction visas to help meet housing goals

Credit: Greater London Authority
Credit: Greater London Authority

London mayor Sadiq Khan is calling for the government to create a new 12-month visa for construction workers to help London meet its goal of 66,000 new homes a year, with warnings of missing affordable homes targets.

The mayor said: “Tackling London’s housing crisis has always been one of my top priorities. We’ve worked tirelessly over the last five years to get London building again, and the construction sector forms a key part of London’s COVID recovery plan.”

Now, Mr Khan is calling for a regional shortage occupation list to allow London and other cities to attract and retain staff in sectors with acute labour shortages.

This comes in response to the number of EU construction workers in London falling by 54% between April 2017 to April 2020 according to Office of National Statistics figures, with the UK-born workforce also expected to dwindle over the next five years as an estimated ten to 20% reach retirement age.

Labour shortages are holding up projects

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) trade survey for the third quarter of 2021 found nearly two-thirds of local builders had paused jobs due to lack of labour, with nearly half struggling to recruit in key skills such as bricklaying and carpentry.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Short-term solutions like emergency visas will be a real shot in the arm for an industry under pressure.”

Geeta Nanda Affordable, chief executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley Trust, added: “The shortage of qualified construction workers is causing delays and is putting pressure on the costs of building much needed new homes.”

Meanwhile, finance brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said development finance lenders had noticed smaller builders often had to extend loan repayment deadlines due to setbacks caused by labour shortfalls.

>>Read more about the ongoing skills shortage here.