Caroline Pidgeon sets out housing policies

Apr 20, 2016 7:10 AM

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor, has published her manifesto. We’ve taken a look at what she’d do to fix the housing crisis and how she compares with other candidates so far.

First, it’s worth noting that some of her commitments have been made to us directly, and aren’t in her manifesto. We’ll flag these up.

On social housing, she hasn’t gone as far as Sadiq Khan and Sian Berry who are committing to at least 50% of new homes to be affordable. She prefers a “guideline” for this level, and has committed to building 50,000 council houses.

The guideline indicates that she will make this a condition of any development that uses public money or land – something we’ve called for and she has committed to. She will also require homes built for private rent to be let on stable tenancies.

Another 150,000 homes will be built for private rent and sale over the four-year mayoralty. Aside from taking the building target to the minimum (as other candidates have committed to), there is nothing special about this, but we do like her proposals to give private tenants a right to buy their home if the landlord sells, and (like Sian) to promote community land trusts, whose model is based around permanently low-cost ownership.

Funding is where Caroline offers a lot of new ideas, including some that will mean little to the average voter. She will raise more than twice what Sian Berry promises through a council tax precept, which is interesting. But she will also make use of a London Housing Bond, and "development gain by using the extra powers being devolved from central government over tax and incentive mechanisms such as business rates exemptions and so-called tax incremental financing." The latter is supported by Core Cities and the British Property Federation, and involves paying for development with future business rate receipts.

Sadly, on security of tenure the manifesto just says "encourage landlords to offer longer minimum tenancies", which the government is technically already doing; without a mandatory element, there’s no improvement on the status quo. And there’s nothing on setting rent levels, which, short of flooding the market with new homes, is essential to make London affordable.

Caroline’s manifesto does promise to promote effective registration of landlords, including selective licensing, and to establish central unit to prosecute criminals. She goes further in our correspondence with her team to back a Londonwide licensing scheme. This could be a means to introduce greater security for tenants – as Zac is proposing to do with the London Rental Standard.

On letting agents, she would set up one of her own, like Sadiq, and also commits to banning “excessive and unnecessary” fees (not in the manifesto, but official Lib Dem policy).

Finally, on giving tenants a voice, again there is nothing in the manifesto, but we have confirmation from the campaign that they'll support the creation of a Tenants’ Commission which would lead research into the city’s housing market.