My pledge to stand with renters

Today I officially launched my campaign to be Mayor of London with a pledge to strengthen the rights of renters in our city. 

As a private renter myself, I know the reality of being a tenant in London. As Mayor, I will stand alongside millions of renters like me to strengthen our rights. I will push the Government until London gets the powers we need, and I will work with Mayors from other cities to get it done.

Almost every other major city has lower rents than London. Almost every EU country has better protections for tenants. London needs a Mayor who will be a real champion for renters, bringing down skyrocketing rents, and bringing up the standards of housing. We’ve waited too long for the current Mayor to act. It’s time for a Green Mayor.

My full package of plans includes winning rent control powers, fighting for the long awaited abolition of no-fault evictions, and supporting renters to set up co-ops to buy out their landlords.

I have lived in six rented properties in London since 1997. And as an Assembly Member, I have stood up for renters from the start, and won improved policies from the current Mayor on the housing crisis in our city.

In 2016, I helped exposed the problems faced by renters in a survey and report put together with fellow renters. I pushed the current Mayor for more than three years to acknowledge the need for rent controls in London, pushed back on dodgy definitions of ‘affordable’ housing, achieved a big change in policy to give residents the power to vote down plans that demolish council homes, and won cross party support for ring-fenced funding for young people facing homelessness.

Momentum is building behind rent controls. Berlin, Paris and Barcelona have all introduced new rent control laws, while Shelter and the New Economics Foundation have both backed reigning in runaway rents.

Today, I launched my campaign alongside a fellow renter in Hackney, whose experience is representative of many renters in London. 

Georgia Elander is 25 years old and spends £775 a month on a small room in a flat shared with two other people. This represents approximately 40 percent of her take home monthly income. During her tenancy, she has had to put up with problems like damp, a collapsed ceiling, and rain coming into the kitchen through the back door.

Georgia says:

“I’ve had to put up with some shocking stuff as a tenant, especially for the amount of money I hand over from each pay packet. 

“For the first three months I lived in this flat, there was literally a hole in the roof, and serious damp which had a real impact on my flatmate’s health – and this isn’t even the worst rented home I’ve lived in. And handing over such a huge amount of money each month just adds insult to injury.

“I know my story isn’t unique. Almost everyone I know my age is in exactly the same position. We can’t save, there’s nowhere left in London that’s affordable, and rent only seems to go up. We desperately need a Mayor who takes renters’ rights seriously – someone who will make it cheaper to live in nicer homes”

The median rent of a two bed home in London is now 50 percent of the median salary, compared with just 26 percent of the median salary across England as a whole. On average, a London renter will spend 40 percent of their income on rent. In Berlin, a city with rent controls, renters only spend on average 24 percent of their salary on rent according to a 2018 study. 

As the official election period begins this week, my promise to stand with renters kicks off a campaign which seeks to bring more Greens into City Hall, with current polling putting them on track for a record result. In 2016, we came third, and I won the most second preference votes of any candidate for Mayor.

This May, Londoners have a real chance to put more Greens in power. 

We’re showing record results in the polls already and getting a great response from Londoners across the city to our ideas, and that will only increase as they hear more from our campaign up to 6 May.

My policies for renters:

  • A Green Mayor will work from day one for every Londoner to have their right to a decent, secure home respected, including the right to good standards, security from unfair evictions and protection from high rents. 
  • Throughout the pandemic, I have stood up for the rights of renters, fighting for the eviction ban and proposing fair ways to cancel rent arrears built up, not turn them into debts. Landlords who need support should be able to claim it from Government. Greens will continue to campaign until renters are not made to bear the burden of the crisis. 
  • A Green Mayor would not accept any more delays on the promised abolition of no-fault evictions and section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act.
  • We will campaign to scrap the benefit cap and maintain the emergency coronavirus increases to the Local Housing Allowance rate for housing benefit.
  • I pushed the current Mayor for more than three years before he started to push for rent control powers for London, and London’s renters need a real champion for this issue. These devolved powers are urgent and Greens will not go slow or give up on pressing for these powers.
  • A Green Mayor will use these powers to set up a Rent Commission for London to decide on a new target level and downward trajectory for private rents, and immediately define the London Living Rent better to take account of the wage gaps faced by households led by women and African, Caribbean, Asian, Latino and other minority ethnic Londoners. 
  • We will bring in a two-year freeze for private rents while the new body completes its work and puts forward long-term, stable and predictable rent control plans. 
  • We will support the London Renters Union and other groups organising tenants from the grassroots, providing grants for them to expand and for new local groups to be set up, as proposed by Green Assembly Members in the most recent GLA budget.
  • This will include groups representing students and migrants and refugees, as well as disabled tenants, to ensure their rights, including to adapted homes when needed, are respected. 
  • We will provide grants and support for new co-ops, including revolving loans for new groups, targeting the promotion of these services particularly towards key workers and people living in houses of multiple occupation who wish to take over the running of their homes, and to African, Caribbean, Asian, Latino and other minority ethnic Londoners. 
  • We will campaign at a national level for a right to co-op for people in shared houses, following up on research work I commissioned in the London Assembly.
  • We will work to close the loopholes that leave property guardians in legal limbo, and put forward changes in the law to include property guardians in new rights for renters.
  • Much higher levels of truly affordable rented homes will be included in new planning policies for the Build to Rent sector.