Two million tenants in London will welcome the fact that getting a fairer deal for private renters is one of the Mayor of London’s five priorities for housing in the London Housing Strategy, which was published at the end of May. Given that Sadiq Khan’s housing powers are highly limited, what is his strategy promising to private renters in London?
Improving the quality of private renting
Too many renters in London are living with health and safety hazards in their homes and dealing with poor and sometimes illegal management practices by landlords and letting agents. The Mayor is calling for the regulation of private renting through property licensing and landlord registration, so that tenants can expect consistently decent standards.
The local authority housing teams responsible for inspecting and enforcing standards in private rented homes have been stripped back to bare bones in recent years, and councils require permission from central government to introduce licensing schemes, making it tricky to the Mayor to act in this area. Nevertheless, a number of London local authorities have been given permission by the secretary of state to introduce property licensing. The Mayor wants to support these schemes, and coordinate information sharing and action.
He is calling on on government to give councils the resources they need to enable enforcement of housing standards. He’s keen to see light touch regulation for good landlords, with resources focused on pursuing those who behave unlawfully, and is already naming and shaming criminal landlords and letting agents through the Rogue Landlord Checker, now live on the GLA website. Although we question the use of the term ‘rogue’ rather than ‘criminal’ (which is what they are), this public database enables London private renters to make more informed decisions when moving home, facilitates greater transparency, and should help drive up private renting standards in the capital.
A more secure, stable and affordable PRS
The Mayor specifically mentions families on low incomes, those affected by welfare reform, young people unable to save for a home, and children living in private rented homes. The number of private renters in these groups has soared over the last decade, but the tenure’s high levels of insecurity and unaffordability have a particularly negative impact on these people. The Mayor says that he will develop proposals for a new tenancy model for renters – a London Model – which will offer greater stability and tenant rights for those that want it. With 550,000 children now living in private rented homes in the capital, there are many families that would value the protection that longer tenancy agreements offer from no fault evictions and the stability this gives them in relation to their homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. We will be working with City Hall on what the London Model looks like, and ensuring that it will benefit all tenants.
The Mayor has said that he will support models of rent stabilisation that do not negatively impact on the delivery of new homes. This is welcome news for Londoners, 64% of whom support some form of rent control, and we look forward to hearing more about this. But we are concerned that the Mayor has said that the GLA will only explore rent control or stabilisation in London after the London Model tenancy reform work is complete. We see protection from rent rises as a fundamental part of tenant security.
More genuinely affordable homes for Londoners
Delivering genuinely affordable homes for Londoners on low and middle incomes is one of the Mayor’s housing priorities. His strategy promises to invest in homes based on social rent levels for low income Londoners and in London Living Rent homes and shared ownership homes for middle income Londoners. Mr Khan has set a target of half of new homes built being genuinely affordable, and says that he will do this through ensuring that the planning system secures more affordable homes for new developments, investing £4.82bn funding to support 116,000 affordable home starts by 2022, and working with partners to develop publicly owned land for homes. He will also call on Government to increase the levels of welfare support available for housing costs in London.
Of course, London needs to get housebuilding to increase the supply of housing and bring down prices in the long-term, and the strategy outlines this as the Mayor’s number one housing priority. He says that this will happen through identifying and bringing forward more land for housing development, making greater use of land assembly powers, working with public sector landowners to release land for homes, and working with SME builders, housing associations, and local authorities.
Mr Khan has rightly identified that he will have to work with many partners to fix London’s housing crisis, and it would have been good to see more support for groups building renter power in the capital. In countries such as the US and Germany, renter organising is much more commonplace and has contributed to the relative stability and affordability of private rented housing in those countries. As well as us, groups such as London Renters’ Union and ACORN, which recently pressured TSB to change Buy to Let mortgage conditions to allow longer term tenancies, show that there is much that can be achieved through tenant organising. We hope the Mayor will see the value in working together with renters. Nevertheless, it’s great that the Mayor is promising radical and innovative action on housing and we’ll continue to work with the GLA to ensure that promise of a fairer deal for London’s private renters is delivered.
Get involved with the campaign – come along to our launch event for the End Unfair Evictions campaign on Wednesday.