First up, on affordable housing, Sian has matched Sadiq Khan’s commitment to ensure at least half of homes built in London are classed as affordable. She’ll also, like Sadiq, redefine “affordable” housing to link it to incomes and define a “living rent” for new homes. Of these affordable homes, 16,000 will be social rent and 10,000 will be low-cost rent and ownership. Behind this building programme will lie a City Hall-based housing company – a popular concept with other candidates – but will act to support smaller organisations in building, rather than doing so directly, it seems.
To fund new housing, and specifically community-led housing projects, Sian would maintain the council tax precept from the Olympics. This had been estimated to raise £900m though the figure is not in the manifesto.
As Mayor, Sian would make public land available to community housing projects, including community land trusts, whose model we are very keen on – it inspired our own Bubble-Free Housing Market proposal. The Housing Company will also use compulsory purchase powers, something not mentioned by other candidates so far (though Sadiq will use these powers to bring empty homes back into use).
She also proposes to introduce “new policies for taller buildings”, referring to “stronger planning rules” to ensure they “play a positive role”. This is fine – we agree that new homes should fit in aesthetically and practically with their surroundings, but a party like the Greens that rejects building on the green belt will need to rely on taller buildings to meet their targets so they would have to avoid rules that were too restrictive.
For those of us who won’t be living in new homes any time soon, Sian offers a Tenants’ Union, which will provide legal support for tenants, provide local scrutiny of the housing market and promote better enforcement from councils, and develop a landlord register.
The union would also work with the Mayor – assuming it’s Sian Berry – to lobby government for powers “to bring in rent controls and require more stable tenancy agreements” (if that’s something they wanted to do). This is a bit of a roundabout way of saying that Sian supports both of these. She’s unique among candidates (so far) in calling for actual rent controls. And on security of tenure she is a bit clearer than Sadiq, who makes a vague reference to “strengthening renters’ rights”, but doesn’t give us the level of detail of Zac Goldsmith’s flawed plan of action.
What we still don’t know is what minimum protection each candidate would want for tenants. “Stable tenancies” could range from the option of a longer tenancy (essentially possible right now but very uncommon) all the way to abolition of Section 21 “no-fault” evictions.
Landlord regulation under a Sian Berry mayoralty would involve a Londonwide landlord register, a blacklist of “rogue” landlords and a campaign for licensing – more or less identical to Sadiq’s manifesto and what we’re calling for.
On letting agents, Sian would support local groups to conduct secret shopping, which is nice, because we’re already doing this. We would have given extra marks for a call for a ban.
It is also worth highlighting Sian’s policies aimed at smaller groups in society such as older people, immigrants, the homeless, disabled people (10% of homes would be disabled-accessible) and students (who would get a living rent).
Next up, Caroline Pidgeon…
UPDATE 14 April
Team Sian have been in touch to confirm that the Green Party’s national manifesto calls for a ban on fees to tenants, and a new, indefinite “Stable Rental Tenancy”, and this would be Sian’s position too.