Enjoy the summer - but come back ready to end the London housing crisis

Jul 21, 2016 3:30 PM

As is so often the case in the week before politicians break for the summer, we’ve had a raft of announcements, predictions and indicators in the last week – including a number of focused reports today from English Housing Survey data.

Coupled with announcements made at yesterday’s Mayoral Question Time (the last until September), private renters in London have a diagnosis and some solutions to ponder over the summer.

But equally, it is hoped that these reports will have brought added impetus to plans being written by the housing team at City Hall, ready to hit the ground running after the summer. 

And this is surely needed. Unsurprisingly the English Housing Survey found that the private rented sector continued to grow, and that over the last twenty years, the proportion of renters who are families with children had risen from 16-23%, with the proportion of single-parent families indicating a similar trend (7-13%).

The feeling of insecurity that continues to surround any private tenancy will particularly hit families in London, who are more reliant on services and remaining in one particular local authority.

It was therefore extremely welcome to hear Sadiq Khan state that he would raise the issue of devolving powers around security of tenure in the PRS, when he meets with the new Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid. We know this wasn’t on the table in discussions with the previous Minister, but it cannot be ignored if London wants to be truly family friendly.

Local authorities in London have for years been raising cases of children having to travel long distances to remain at their old schools because of changes in housing circumstance, with all the attendant problems for the family as a result.

Those trying to put down roots through homeownership also continue to struggle – the data shows there were 600,000 less first time buyers in London in 2014-15 compared to 2004-05.

For those stuck in the private rented sector, we hope new Mayoral powers and policy direction can start to improve a tenure that is a long-term norm for so many Londoners. At Mayoral Question Time, Sadiq Khan indicated that he was confident to securing powers to approve borough-wide landlord licensing.

Licensing in this form remains a vital tool in helping local authorities to track their PRS stock, drive out poor landlords and improve conditions across the city. Today’s national figures show that 28% of private renters (1.2 million households) live in non-decent homes, compared to 18% of owner-occupiers and 14% of social tenants.

One final issue was raised at the London Assembly that Generation Rent will be looking to build on. While the Mayor has promised to ensure residents have a genuine say in estate regeneration plans, it has been unclear how this affects private renters, who have historically had no rights and simply faced eviction when an estate has been rebuilt.

The Mayor’s answer to Sian Berry AM stated that private renters would be included in new consultation guidance for local authorities.

This is a good step forward in recognising that private renters are also long-term residents in London and deserve rights and consideration under council plans, as well as more support in London’s overall housing strategy.

With new Minister for Housing Gavin Barwell also holding the brief for London, and representing a constituency where one in five residents are private renters, we hope this can become the new normal.