How the next Mayor of London can start fixing the housing crisis

As the major parties choose their mayoral candidates for the 2016 London elections, today Generation Rent publishes a manifesto for London that that sets out a programme that any Mayor who is serious about the private rented sector should adopt. Whoever wins in May will have to be robust in demanding new powers to regulate the sector, so it's vital that politicians understand how hard private renters are being squeezed in the capital. Today renters can call on them to commit to solving the London housing crisis.

Like private tenants across the UK, Londoners in the PRS face insecurity, the worst conditions of any tenure and landlords and agents who are too lightly regulated. But ask anyone in the city about their primary housing concern and you will get one answer - affordability.

London's private renters pay double the amount of counterparts outside the city, simply cannot save a mortgage deposit and have almost no access to social housing. For this reason, alongside other reforms that the national PRS requires, the London Mayor needs a programme that puts bringing down housing costs as its primary goal.

To that end, Generation Rent's manifesto calls for rent controls in the PRS, much increased investment in social housing and the rolling out of a programme of a secondary housing market to provide permanently affordable homes to buy and rent at scale.

Central to building affordable homes in London is planning reform. We can no longer afford as a city to see new developments with minimal or zero levels of genuinely affordable housing, and we need to impose rent levels on new homes built for private renting.

We therefore call today for three main principles for new developments:

  1. transparency, so that the public and local authorities know exactly how a development proposal has been contrived;
  2. limiting rates of profit, to maximise affordability in housing but provide a fair return for developers; and
  3. a fixed level of genuinely affordable homes on every site, to institute a new regime where this kind of housing is prioritised.

London's politicians also need to redefine the definition of 'affordability', removing the current use of it as up to 80% of market rate, and instead using one that reflects people's actual ability to pay. Setting it at 30% of income of the lowest earning quartile will start to ensure more people can access secure housing and bring down the benefits bill.

Take with other reforms that are needed for private renters, including fair letting agents, extending security of tenure, a mandatory Decent Homes Standard for the PRS and regulation of landlords, this focus on affordability will start to calm London's housing market and make it a city that is genuinely accessible for the whole population.

As mentioned, much of this programme will require additional powers from central government. The Mayor will have the largest direct mandate of any politician in the UK so can and must argue for the importance of the capital's mixed communities, show how many people are renting in London and insist that special powers are devolved to deal the particular housing issues of the city.

We are already seeing welfare reform drive the poorest out of London and this itself shows the failures of this policy. But greater numbers will continue to be forced out, or live increasingly impoverished lives in the capital, unless we have a Mayor who recognises that only radical change will stop this trend.

Our manifesto today introduces policy that will help with that. But the whole of London is crying out for bold solutions - and the next Mayor must recognise that, or fail in any election bid.

Please contact the London Mayoral candidates today, asking that they support our manifesto and use their position to call for the powers that the city needs to solve its housing crisis.

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