This week, we partnered with Business in the Community, Shelter and Starbucks in gathering 15 of London’s top business leaders wanting to take action on London’s housing crisis. The Prince’s Seeing is Believing visit, ‘why housing matters to business’, brought leaders of companies including PwC, Citigroup, Westfields, Arup, Morgan Stanley and KPMG out of the boardroom and allowed them to meet Shelter service users. They heard first hand from several people who had been made homeless, despite being in full time work. The housing crisis had caused them to suffer serious debt and live in unacceptable housing conditions, while raising children. There was also a visit to emergency accommodation, so that the business leaders could see for themselves just how poor the quality of housing can be, even for those earning above minimum wage.
Next, delegates heard from Starbucks, Legal & General and Deloitte about the initiatives they are already taking to help their staff through the housing crisis, and were encouraged to implement similar schemes. While delegates agreed that it shouldn’t be up to business to fix the housing crisis, it is very much in the interest of all employers to have a well housed workforce: staff are healthier, more productive and have lower absenteeism.
Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of London First, said: “I was particularly moved by the effect the housing crisis has on the mental health of not just the working population but on their children too. With average rents continuing to soar past £1,700 per calendar month, this problem is impacting an increasing number of individuals, semi – skilled, skilled and professional workers. Our global competitiveness is at stake if we don’t tackle the housing crisis – we need diversity of talent to stay ahead. Our Fifty Thousand Homes campaign encourages employers to alleviate housing costs on their staff, but this does not tackle the root cause of the problem: the chronic undersupply of homes that London so badly needs.”
Attendee Simon Durkin, BNP Paribas, said: “I have now seen and heard about the ‘true scale’ of the London Housing, truly sobering. There is no single solution, we all have a part to play and it’s great to hear so many businesses ‘doing their bit’.”
Following the event, we have urged the government to allow local authorities to be allowed to borrow to build, to release more public land for development and to devolve further powers to the regions so that they can deliver the homes London needs. Every delegate that attended showed great willingness to do what they can going forward. If you’d like to know more about how your organisation can support the campaign, please get in touch and do sign up to our pledges.