Why Sadiq Khan needs the powers to rein in London’s rental market

The Mayor is consulting on a new housing strategy for the capital. Rent controls have to form part of that, say the London Housing Campaign.

The Mayor of London is currently writing a new Housing Strategy. It’s a key opportunity to turn around the crisis of affordability and quality of London’s homes. Because it is a crisis.

Since 2010, average rents in London have risen 26 per cent, far faster than wages. The workers – cleaners, nurses, teachers, firefighters – who keep our city running are finding themselves priced out of the capital. Many families are forced to move every year and as a result are uprooted from their communities, forced to live away from family, with children’s education and upbring disrupted and commutes to work lengthened.

Across the city, private tenants spend on average half (53.5 per cent) of their wages paying the rent and, in some boroughs, the monthly cost of a two-bedroom home is more than 60 per cent of average wages for the area. There are 13 boroughs where rents have increased by more than a third since 2011.

With sky-high rents, it is estimated that landlords in the UK make £77.7 billion each year in rent capital gains. Yet the taxpayer pays landlords £26.7 billion in tax breaks and housing benefit. This public subsidy is greater than government spending on overseas aid, job seekers allowance, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Affordable Homes Programme combined.

It is clear that London’s private rented sector is out of control – and Londoners need the Mayor to have powers to set rent rises within and between tenancies.

The maximum level of rent rises should be set by the Mayor each year with explicit regard to affordability for Londoners, taking account of increases or decreases in real wages, benefit changes, and increases in the cost of living. This should inform the Mayor’s decision on rent increases, which should be made in consultation with a newly-established private tenants’ union.

The Mayor’s proposal for a new deal for private renters, with greater security of tenancy, is to be welcomed. This must include an end to no-fault evictions and move to make indefinite tenancies the norm. However, legal rights to secure, long-term tenancies mean nothing if Londoners can’t afford to stay in their homes because landlords are free to hike rents by any amount they wish.

The Mayor’s submission to the Government on a new legal framework for the private rented sector must be bold, radical and ambitious. It is critical that it sets out the case for the Mayor to have the powers to set rent rises for the private sector within and between tenancies.

You can read the London Housing Campaign’s submission to the Mayor in full and sign its petition for rent controls.

Tom King is a Spokesperson for the London Housing Campaign

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