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23rd Jan 2019

Sadiq Khan to campaign for rent controls in mayoral re-election bid

Sadiq Khan will make rent controls a central point of his re-election campaign in the upcoming mayoral election in London

Reuben Pinder

Two thirds of renters in London are in favour of rent controls, according to a poll

Sadiq Khan will make rent controls a central point of his re-election campaign in the upcoming mayoral election in London.

The former MP for Tooting will ask the government to give the London mayoralty the power to tackle increasingly expensive rent prices in England’s capital.

Khan will devise a blueprint for new laws to be applied to private landlords that will allow new restrictions to be imposed, but the mayor requires legislation from the central government before they can implement such restrictions.

Recent YouGov research by City Hall, released to the Guardian, suggests that as many as two thirds of renters in London – a quarter of the City’s population – are in favour of rent controls due to the soaring prices of accommodation in the city.

Khan told the Guardian that the arguments for rent control were “overwhelming and Londoners overwhelmingly want it to happen”, but said he could not make the change within his current remit.

“London is in the middle of a desperate housing crisis that has been generations in the making,” Khan said.

“I am doing everything in my power to tackle it – including building record numbers of new social homes – but I have long been frustrated by my lack of powers to help private renters.”

Between 2005 and 2016, the average rent price in London rose by 38%. Not only that, an average one-bedroom rented home in London costs more on average than for a three-bedroom home in every other English region.

While it will likely be a popular policy among Londoners, Khan will face many obstacles in persuading the Conservative government to put through the necessary legislation.

The housing secretary, James Brokenshire, has argued that rent controls would lead to poorer housing standards, as landlords would be unable to afford to maintain properties.

Brokenshire also argues that it could also have a dramatic effect on housing supply, and that landlords could choose to sell up rather than receive less from their rental income.

Khan’s deputy mayor for housing, James Murray, and the Westminster North MP, Karen Buck, will be the brains behind the blueprint put together as part of his bid to introduce rent controls. Last year, Buck won government support for her private member’s bill to put legally binding standards on rented homes.

“London’s private renters are among the worst affected by the housing crisis in the capital, and the laws to protect them are woefully out of date,” Buck said.

“We need an approach to rent stabilisation and control that works in London. Once we have set out these proposals, we will argue the case that ministers must support London’s private renters by putting our plans into action.”

Rent controls are implemented to varying degrees across the world. In Berlin, for example, rents are controlled both within and between tenancies and New York has some apartments capped by the NYC Rent Guidelines Board, while others have their rent “stabilised” or reset between tenancies.

In Scotland, new laws have recently been brought in to allow councils to apply to implement “rent pressure zones”, i.e – rent prices are not allowed increase at a higher rate than inflation.