Local council elections are taking place in London in a few months. And just like the 2016 Mayoral race, these contests will be dominated by the city's housing crisis. From Haringey to Kensington and Chelsea, Londoners are looking for secure and affordable homes, and asking their councils to respond.
As manifestos are written, Generation Rent has published Rented London: How local authorities can support private renters. It is a five-point plan, based on minimal resources, to ensure that councils are doing what they are able to with existing powers to improve the private rented sector.
The report calls on councils to:
1. Implement borough-wide landlord licensing
2. Produce and carry out a strategic plan for enforcement against poor conditions in the PRS
3. Ensure council communications are correctly targeted at renters and make them aware of their rights
4. Support campaigns for national reform by providing evidence and insight about the PRS where they are
5. Ensure build-to-rent is affordable for local residents and matches different household types
Taking forward these actions would require some initial investment, but would be repaid over time through penalties and housing enforcement against the worst landlords, allowing councils to expand their environmental health and trading standards teams.
Furthermore, national campaigns to make renting affordable and secure need the evidence that councils can provide, and their political support.
Last week's English Housing Survey showed that the number of first-time buyers continues to fall in London, and the average rent is £309 per week. 1 million private renters in London are living in poverty, and 1 in 10 PRS homes are hazardous.
It is on this last point that local authorities are particularly able to act, and must show the willing and focus to do so. Very often, and with good reason, public debate on housing in the capital focuses on new developments, and the lack of genuinely affordable housing being provided to Londoners.
But the private renting crisis is much more hidden, and is affecting increasing numbers of people each year. At these local elections, councils must show their residents they understand this, and match that with actions, not just words.