Green Party Mayoral hopeful Sian Berry has called on her Labour and Tory counterparts to stick up for what they say they believe in and amend the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill currently proceeding through Parliament to enable city Mayors to control soaring private rents.
Supported by Green MP Caroline Lucas, Sian has today written to each of the MPs standing for Mayor, saying, “If you want to be able to control spiralling rents in London there is nothing preventing you from proposing an amendment to this bill to give to London’s next Mayor these powers.”
“We all agree we need to make it cheaper to rent in London, and with rents already averaging half Londoners’ take-home pay, a cap on rent rises – or even better a rent freeze – could start making a difference to affordability straight away.”
She has issued the challenge to Diane Abbott, Sadiq Khan and David Lammy from Labour, and Zac Goldsmith from the Conservatives, asking them to propose amendments to the Bill, which is expected to come to the Commons in the Autumn after passing through the Lords this month.
The amendment could allow London’s Mayor, and the new city Mayors in other areas, to force landlords to register and to allow rent rises to be capped. She has also proposed that the definition of ‘affordable rent’ could be redefined by each city in line with local wages.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:
“This amendment would give Mayors the powers they need to get a handle on the spiralling rents that are causing such misery in our cities. It would allow elected mayors to make the best choice for their city, taking into account the local circumstances, and allowing them to protect their residents from unscrupulous landlords and unfair hikes in rent. I fully support this proposed change and will be doing all I can to ensure it is incorporated into the final legislation.”
“The cost of private rent is out of control. I know because I rent privately myself, frequently need to move, and often feel like I’m one rent increase away from being pushed out of London altogether.
“Green Assembly Members have shown that private rent is already swallowing up half peoples incomes on average, with many paying even more. If Berlin is bringing in similar powers in order to avoid becoming like London, we have to act.
“If the MPs standing for Mayor stood up and took action now, these powers could be there for whoever is Mayor next May, giving each of us the chance to do something sooner rather than later about this huge problem.”
Most of the candidates have proposed some kind of controls on rents, while Berry says that, with rent controls in place, it is likely her policy on rent levels would be more radical, following consultation with Greens and housing campaigners.
For Labour, Khan says he would ‘lobby the government’ for wider powers to freeze rents. Abbott has specifically called for Borough-wide rent controls. While Lammy says Landlords would have to sign a register and be subject to the London Rental Standard, as well as rent controls. Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith is the only London MP so far declared for the party, and has said he will be ‘bearing down on unsustainable rents’.
1. Sian’s proposed amendment to the Bill:
[City Mayors] may establish and operate a scheme for the licensing of private landlords, including the ability to regulate tenancy terms and rent increases within tenancies, and set an appropriate definition of affordable rent for their cities, based on incomes rather than market rates.
Working for Campaign for Better Transport in collaboration with a range of transport charities and the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, Berry helped pass a similarly radical amendment to the Infrastructure Bill in January 2015, which added a clause to a bill largely concerned with road-building, compelling the government to put in place guaranteed long-term cycling and walking funding.
3. Data from London Assembly Green group research at Crumbs for London