As we’ve seen in the past eight years, as the ranks of the private rented sector have swelled, the mayor has only been listening to the people building homes, not the people who are supposed to be living in them.
On the day Vote Homes 2016 went live, we’d had encouraging words from Zac Goldsmith and Sian Berry on community involvement in decisions about their local areas, but no concrete policy. Two days later, Sian came out with one: if elected, she’ll support the creation of a London Renters Union.
This is an idea that has been getting traction – loads of people have told us that we need a tenants union, and we agree. Renters might not have a lot of rights, but they have some – over deposit protection, decent homes, and, pretty soon, rent repayments if you get a negligent landlord. We need the power to enforce these rights as well as win new ones.
For the many renters who have no disposable income at the end of the month, access to justice is pretty hard to come by, so we need a new way to reset the balance of power. And the success of University College London students in their rent strike demonstrates the potential for victories at the collective level.
We and other groups are already talking about what a renters union will look like, so Sian’s move is intriguing.
It would be a bit worrying if City Hall ran a union directly, so we’re glad to hear that Sian would be supporting existing renters groups to lead the union independently.
Our discussions will continue, and we hope the other candidates will make their own commitment to the renters’ movement.
UPDATE: if you’re interested in helping to get a London Renters Union off the ground, sign up to this mailing list.