Mayor and Govt need to act now to help private renters

Today the Assembly passed my motion urging both the Mayor and the Government to protect London’s private rented sector.

We made a number of urgent recommendations, following data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities showing that in the middle of this year 1,480 households were threatened with homelessness or made homeless as a result of their landlord selling or reletting. That’s the highest Quarter 1 figure since records began, in 2019.

The coming winter threatens to create a huge crisis for London’s private renters, and while the government continues to delay bringing in vital protections, we need to raise our voices to call for emergency measures from both ministers and the Mayor.

I am pleased the Assembly has backed further action today, including a rent freeze and an emergency suspension of no-fault evictions, in the same way that it was needed during the pandemic.

We have also called on the Mayor to use any funding he can find to help prevent renters from losing their homes and to consider bringing forward our own proposals from London into Parliament.

Watch my speech:

The full text of the motion is:

This Assembly is increasingly concerned about the situation facing private renters as the cost-of-living crisis continues and winter approaches.

The following issues are making this crisis more acute:

  • Rises in rents, with estate agents reporting rapid increases since last year, particularly in central London[1];
  • Many landlords asking for higher rents for existing tenants[2]; and
  • A rise in Section 21 notices from landlords, pushing more renters to search for new homes; Ministry of Justice figures show that there are 1,938 court claims under Section 21 in Quarter 3 2022 in London, the highest level since Quarter 2 2019.[3]

We believe that, without action, London risks a wave of new homeless families and individuals this winter, and councils are already seeing more applications for support from Londoners. Data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) for Quarter 1, 2022 shows that 1,480 households are threatened with homelessness or made homeless as a result of their landlord selling or reletting. The latter is the highest Quarter 1 figure since they started collecting the data in 2019.[4]

We note that the long-promised Parliamentary Bill to support renters and improve protections has been delayed, although DLUHC have reiterated that it will come forward in this Parliament, but without giving a firm timetable.[5] [6]

We also note that the Mayor has been vocal in calling for the power to freeze rents, and this policy has now been enacted in Scotland. The Mayor has also called on the Government to end Section 21 evictions, lift the benefit cap, unfreeze Local Housing Allowance rates and take measures to stop refugees and asylum seekers being pushed into homelessness.[7]

The Assembly supports the Mayor on all this, and asks the Chair to add our voice with a letter calling for these measures and making the following additional emergency demands to relevant ministers in Government:

  • Institute an immediate suspension of Section 21 and eviction proceedings, similar to the emergency provisions during the pandemic;
  • Urgently bring forward promised legislation to protect renters, with the most vital elements of the promised Bill needing to be in place by the end of this parliamentary session;
  • Increase Housing Benefit to rates that allow working families on lower incomes to cover rising private rent demands;
  • Provide urgent capital funding to councils, allowing them to buy homes from landlords who are struggling financially and provide security for existing tenants, and to purchase market-sale properties to support homeless families and individuals.

In addition, we do not believe the Mayor should wait to take action if the Government refuses to take these steps, and call on him to:

  • Extend the Right To Buy Back programme to help councils buy homes from landlords in distress and from the market to keep renters in their homes and provide accommodation to avert this crisis,
  • Lobby for legislation in Parliament for urgent devolved powers to improve private renting in London, including the power to freeze and control rents, and consider working with councils to use powers to propose our own new laws; and
  • Set up his planned London Rent Commission now to develop evidence for and models of regulation for our city, rather than wait for powers to be devolved before creating this body.