Sian Berry says: “A safe place to live is a human right. But in London we are failing. The number of people left destitute to sleep on the streets is appalling, and this is just the most visible sign of a much bigger problem.
“Our homeless people don’t need sweeping up like fallen leaves into temporary homes.. We need to heal the tree – root and branch – the system that has too many gaps to fall through, and too much injustice.
“System changes and power shifts are the most resilient changes we can make. Welfare must be fixed, because benefit caps and universal credit are making homelessness worse.
“We must keep reforming the private rented sector, and fight together for better rights and the power to bring in rent controls.
“We also need better rights for social housing and council tenants. Hard-won ballots for estate residents facing demolition are a start, but we need to put more tenants fully in control of homes.
“Our existing homes need fixing too. Councils and housing associations already have a huge job to do on fire safety, and our next Mayor must assess the problem and make plans for the Green New Deal London needs.”
Greens fighting for renters rights
Sian Berry has been a private renter in London for nearly 25 years, and has championed renters’ rights on the London Assembly right from the start, putting forward the idea of a London Renters Union in her manifesto for the 2016 election.
Before that, Sian wrote to Sadiq Khan while he was still an MP in 2015 asking him to help amend legislation to give rent control powers to city mayors. She continued to put pressure on the current Mayor for three years until, in late 2018, he finally took action.
Sian Berry will stand with millions of her fellow renters to strengthen their rights. She will work with other Mayors from across the country, to campaign for the devolved powers we need to set rent controls, bring down runaway rents, forgive rent arrears accumulated during the pandemic, and end unfair evictions.
The current Mayor has been defeatist and slow when it comes to winning a better deal for housing. Sian Berry will be a committed champion for London’s renters.
Winning a final say with estate ballots
February 2018 saw a massive victory for residents on estates as the current Mayor u-turned on his estate ballots policy.
It was revealed that 95 per cent of responses to the draft estate guidance demanded ballots for residents, following our campaigning with residents across London.
As a result, the Mayor dramatically reversed his policy, after his draft guidance was explicitly against giving residents this final say.
The new guidance came into force in July 2018, making a resident ballot compulsory before funding is given for demolition schemes. However, the new rules still have unfair restrictions from voting for different kinds of residents, including private renters.
The Mayor also allowed far too many schemes – 34 in total – to slip through the net, by giving them funding or planning permission in the long period of 11 months between the end of the consultation period and the final policy being announced.
Our policy will be to review all of these schemes that are not now underway, so we can require new plans and new ballots for residents.
A People’s Land Commission
Greens will put power back into the hands of Londoners by setting up a People’s Land Commission.
Together, we will go out into our city, and find land for the things local people really want, like homes, community halls, small businesses, parks, playgrounds, theatres and youth centres.
When local people find plots of land which aren’t being put to good use and would be suitable for small scale developments, a Green Mayor will provide the funding to put these ideas into action.
This is the fresh thinking on housing which London needs, and it will put the land under your feet back into your hands.
Homes for all Londoners
Greens on the London Assembly have worked to expose the problems faced by more and more Londoners who lose their homes every year through no fault of their own.
Families, young people, migrants, veterans, people with poor mental health or family problems, and people denied help by the benefits system, are all especially vulnerable to becoming homeless, along with private renters facing eviction.
Councils are struggling to provide enough temporary accommodation and the number of people forced to sleep on the streets has increased dramatically in central London in recent years.
Sian Berry’s work on the Assembly has also helped expose the problem of hidden homelessness.
On any given night, more than 13 times as many people are in temporary homes, hiding from view on the streets, staying with friends and family or sofa surfing, than are counted in traditional surveys of homelessness.
Women, including those facing domestic abuse, young people and LGBTIQA+ Londoners are some of the worst affected, and only a minority of young people are even approaching councils for help as they feel like they will get no help.
Greens recently carried out research that found Londoners themselves are helping to pick up the pieces, with one in ten people taking in a friend or family member at some point in the last year, giving them a place to stay when they have had nowhere else to go.
Sian Berry says: “We need to fix a system that has too many gaps for people to fall through. The Mayor’s office can help build more homes, and all the policies in this chapter are aimed at fixing fractures and injustice in our housing system.
“But City Hall can also take more action to fix the temporary accommodation crisis and improve the information and help people facing homelessness can access, and make services much more consistent between councils with fewer gaps.”