As Sadiq Khan announced the membership of his new Homes for Londoners board last week, the private rented sector was conspicuous by its absence. Despite close to one third of Londoners privately renting, the new body has not yet made provision for either tenants’ voices to be heard, nor for a clear focus on the PRS to be part of HfL’s work.
The full remit of Homes for Londoners has always been a little unclear, but given one of its explicit goals is to develop homes for the ‘London Living Rent’, it would seem remiss to announce a team with little PRS expertise.
To date, we know that its governance board will include the Mayor of London and Deputy Mayor for Housing, local authorities, housing associations, TfL, the GLA and, vaguely, ‘two members of the residential property sector’.
There will surely be other opportunities and avenues for strategic direction on the private rented sector at City Hall, but this feels like a missed opportunity.
In the same way that it took a shift in mind-set at local authority level for many councils to start properly addressing private renting in their housing strategies, this is still needed at Mayoral level.
Whether it is through new build-to-rent investment, estate regeneration or oversight of lettings management through a new social lettings agency, City Hall will be much more involved in London’s PRS than it has been in recent years.
But the strategic opportunity offered by Homes for Londoners is also crucial. Homes for Londoners should be looking at how to ensure all forms of housing tenure are affordable, secure and decent, while considering how to facilitate Londoners who want or need to move between them.
They should also consider what this tenure mix means for the future of the city, and how it can best serve future as well as current Londoners. It’s for this reason, above all, that the private rented sector should have more of a visible focus on HfL’s board.
The other area that Homes for Londoners sidesteps entirely is that of tenant representation and input into Mayoral housing policy. Generation Rent has been calling since before the May election for greater participation by tenants themselves at a London level, and such a forum seemed to follow from the Mayor’s manifesto pledge on HfL:
“This will include councils, housing associations, developers, home-builders, investors, businesses, residents’ organisations – and together we will set out what we need from central government to enable us to build more homes”.
The Mayor has already committed to ensuring private renters are consulted over redevelopment plans on estates where they live, and this principle should be extended to Mayoral housing policy more widely, at a formal, City Hall level.
Doing so would start to show that the Mayor is serious about Homes for (privately renting) Londoners, and that the Mayor will listen to the needs of residents in developing London’s housing future.