Delayed from August, this week saw the publication of the London Mayor’s draft housing strategy, which is now open for consultation for three months.
Covering all housing policy from leasehold reform to tackling street homelessness, the strategy also has a specific section devoted to the private rented sector. With a quarter of London’s children in the private rented sector, and millions of renters living in poverty, we all know how urgently action is needed.
We’ll be coming back to parts of the strategy in the coming weeks, but here we just focus on the main headlines for renters.
The strategy builds on the Mayor’s manifest commitment and previous public statements, and although the Mayor lacks the powers to fundamentally transform London’s PRS, there are nonetheless some steps forward and potential to go further.
This week saw the introduction of Karen Buck MP’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill, a private member’s bill which will now have its second reading in parliament on Friday 19 January 2018.
The bill seeks to update the law requiring rented homes to be presented and maintained in a state fit for human habitation – updated because the current law only requires this of homes with a rent of up to £80 per year in London, and £52 elsewhere!
Before today’s Queen’s Speech, which set out the government’s parliamentary programme for the next two years, there were two theories about how housing and private renting might feature, and what kind of prominence it would be given.
Figures produced by the End Child Poverty Coalition this week show distressing levels of child poverty after housing costs are included, including within much of London.
The data breaks down levels of child poverty by parliamentary constituency, local authority, and local ward level, and shows that of the twenty constituencies with the highest levels of child poverty, seven are in London, while 11 out of 20 of the highest figures at local authority level are also in the capital.
Back in late 2015, when the details about making landlords check the immigration status of prospective tenants was being debated in parliament, housing and migrant groups repeatedly warned government that this would lead to discrimination, and push vulnerable renters into precarious and hidden housing.
Today a new report from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) on the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme confirms that warning, with shocking findings of non-British and non-white renters finding it more difficult to access a new tenancy.
Proposals this week to implement cheap rents for London’s artists show how the the city’s housing crisis makes an absurdity of good intentions, and indicates why a closer link to universality rather than targeting is needed to make renting affordable again in the capital.
Almost a year after Phillip Hammond announced the Government’s intention to banning letting fees, we now have a draft bill before parliament.
Since that announcement, we have had a consultation on the ban, and of course a new government, but it has remained on the legislative agenda thanks to the concerted campaigning of renters across the country.
This week Trust for London, in conjunction with Loughborough University, published their latest report on a Minimum Income Standard (MIS) for London – with figures updated from their first report in 2015, and with a focus in this research on families.
The MIS compares costs between London and the rest of the UK to show the difference between the minimum needed for an acceptable standard of living – with that minimum based on a list of goods discussed and agreed upon by the public.
We can draw many conclusions from the report, and though it should surprise no one that the cost of housing is a major differential between London and the rest of the UK, the research shows that the rising cost of private rents in the lower end of the market stops a large number of households achieving the MIS.
In ten days time, parliament breaks for the Christmas recess.
When they return in January, they will have an opportunity to support a simple change in law that would provide better protections for renters.
The question is, given that they have missed this opportunity before – will parliament do the right thing this time?
As the publication date for the government’s Housing White Paper approaches, we and groups across the the housing world are hoping for an announcement that will signal a ‘whole new mindset’, as the Secretary of State has promised.
One item that will be included is confirmation of how the government’s long-running Starter Homes policy will work – and the detail will tell us how far it will go towards slowing the affordability crisis for first-time buyers. This is the government’s flagship policy that was pitched as “turning Generation Rent into Generation Buy”.