The Respect Party candidate, George Galloway, has set out his manifesto on his home page, and we've updated our candidate comparison on Vote Homes. This is what he is promising London’s renters.
Like Sian Berry and Sadiq Khan, George “will ensure any housing project submitted for my approval, must be comprised of 50% affordable housing.” He also believes that affordable rent should not be 80% of the market – which, in London, is nowhere near affordable. He would define affordable housing as 50% of average rents instead. This would be an improvement in many parts of London, but if rents keep rising, so will “affordable” rents – past the point where they become unaffordable. To be fair, George's rent controls (see below) would address this, but frankly any credible definition of "affordable" has to take into account the tenant’s income.
Tackling empty homes would be another big project of George's, with compulsory purchase and a land tax which “would make it simply uneconomic for speculators to leave properties empty”. Unfortunately, there are only 22,000 of them – getting them lived-in would only meet demand for less than half a year (London needs at least 50,000 new homes annually). However, the streets of dark houses in Kensington and Chelsea is a scandal, and, as part of a cultural shift away from property as piggy bank, tax reforms are needed and welcome.
A major sticking point in the housing debate around London is the refusal of candidates to build on the green belt. Reaching 50,000 homes a year would be far easier if we redefined the green belt to protect only the land that deserves protecting. George Galloway is alone among the six candidates we're tracking on Vote Homes to advocate building on the green belt – but even then this is not included on his manifesto.
For renters, George would introduce “Berlin style rent-controls and secure tenancies”. We welcome any willingness to intervene on rents, though should point out that this model wouldn’t actually bring them down – Berlin’s rents are already low and their controls just stop them rising so fast. London needs a different model if monthly costs are to fall. Secure tenancies like the ones in Germany are essential – and we’re pleased to see George’s support for this.
Sadly, he hasn’t given us any views on regulating landlords or letting agents, despite the London Mayor having a bit more power in these fields.
While he doesn’t commit to a formal dialogue with private renters, George does commit to "be a voice on the national stage to bring this issue to the centre of our political debate", building a cross-party alliance "to crack down on the speculators" and make "affordable and decent housing for all" a national priority.