Why we need rent controls to tackle the housing crisis
London is in the middle of a desperate housing crisis that has been generations in the making. We won’t solve this enormous challenge overnight – it will require a much greater commitment from the Government to invest in the genuinely affordable homes we need. However, over the last two and half years, I’m proud that we’ve taken some big steps forward in London to turn the tanker around. Last year, we started building a record number of new social homes in London and we are on the way to start building at least 116,000 new genuinely affordable homes by 2022. But we still have a long way to go.
Over the last decade, the housing crisis has forced more and more Londoners to rent privately. This rise has exposed just how out of date and unfit for purpose the laws are that are meant to protect renters. We have also seen soaring levels of rent, which have eaten into an ever-higher percentage of Londoners’ pay packets. This, and the insecurity faced by many renters, has driven poverty, exacerbated inequality and prevented many people from reaching their potential. Faced with this growing crisis, I’m increasingly persuaded that the time has come for a major overhaul of the rental sector. Tenants need greater security and more certainty over the rent they pay.
London isn’t alone. More and more countries around the world are adopting tough new measures, and most major cities in Europe and North America now regulate the private rental sector more than the UK. In Berlin, for example, rents are controlled both within and between tenancies. And even in Scotland, laws have been introduced that allow councils to cap rent at no higher than inflation. By comparison, London and the rest of England and Wales have a private rental sector characterised by extremely weak protections for tenants.
It’s not surprising that a new poll conducted by City Hall and YouGov has revealed overwhelming support for the introduction of rent controls in our city, with over two-thirds of Londoners in favour of the Government capping the amount landlords can charge. It’s clear we need to look at new and bold ways to help renters, including rent controls. That’s why I’m delighted that Karen Buck, the MP for Westminster North, with a wealth of experience of London’s housing crisis, has agreed to work with my Deputy Mayor for Housing, James Murray, on proposals for new laws that would help make private rents more affordable, whilst ensuring that we protect supply and investment.
As Mayor, I simply don’t have the powers to regulate the rental sector. It’s up to Parliament to change the law. But I’m not prepared to wait indefinitely. That’s why this work is so crucial as it will provide the Government with a clear blueprint for overhauling the way we protect those who rent. I will lobby hard to get the change in the law millions of Londoners deserve.
It’s time for change. Tenants in London need the support and protection we all know they deserve. And I’m determined to fight on their behalf.
- Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London.