Housing in London

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 11th June 2021.

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Photo of Sem Moema Sem Moema Labour

What challenges do you face over the next three years with regards to building affordable housing, the London Living Rent and the private rented sector in London?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Can I also congratulate you on your election to the Assembly? It is good to see you.

Building more social housing is my top housing priority because the need for more low-cost rented homes is overwhelming. The evidence shows that two thirds of the new homes needed each year in London should be social rented or other affordable homes. This need has been reinforced by the impact of COVID-19, with a sharp increase in overcrowding and high numbers of households in temporary accommodation. That is why I am pleased that over half of the homes delivered under my new Affordable Homes Programme 2021‑2026 will be for social rent, giving more homeless and overcrowded households the stable affordable homes they need.

In addition, my new Affordable Homes Programme will fund the London Living Rent, which is an intermediate affordable housing product that I introduced in my first year as Mayor in 2016. The London Living Rent is based on a third of local household incomes and is designed to help middle-income households who want to build up savings to buy a home.

The housing crisis still affects too many Londoners, and the evidence shows that London’s affordable housing sector needs significantly more Government funding, £4.9 billion per year for the next 10 years, to meet the capital’s level of affordable housing need. I will continue to make the case to the Government to invest in social housing, protect construction sector jobs and provide a much-needed economic boost as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost a third of Londoners rent privately and the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the precarious situation they face. Lockdown restrictions have exacerbated the health impacts of poor-quality housing and overcrowding has been linked to a greater transmission of COVID-19. Nearly a quarter of private renters have seen their income fall during the pandemic, and one in 12 has received an eviction notice from their landlord. Despite having no formal powers, I am doing all I can to support private renters.

Photo of Sem Moema Sem Moema Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor. It is nice to see you here as well. I am really pleased to hear about the work that you are doing to encourage the Government to fund more affordable housing here in London. As we know, after the London Plan was finally signed off, it says that 66,000 new homes are needed each year in London and 43,000 of them - as you said, a large majority of them - should be for affordable rent, but the Government is funding only 7,000 a year for the next five years, which does not even touch the sides of need here in London.

Can you elaborate on how we are going to meet the needs of Londoners and how much more we can do to make sure that we get the funding that we need to meet the needs of Londoners?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

We have to be straight with Londoners that supply of new homes in London is not going to meet the demand that our city has. I have been straight with Londoners and I have been straight with the Government about what the needs of our city are. That is one of the reasons why you see homes being as expensive as they are in our city.

One of the good pieces of news over the last five years was the work commissioned by Philip Hammond, the [former] Chancellor [of the Exchequer], that Oliver Letwin did [Independent Review of Build Out, 2018], which was to try to understand the diversity of London’s housing market and why there are, for example, almost 300,000 homes given permission that are not built. The answer is that it is not in the private sector’s interest to flood the market with homes for private sale.

We can help by having council homes, registered social landlords and others building homes to help diversify the housing market. We have to continue trying to lobby the Government to get more investment in affordable homes in our city. Yes, there is a role for private housing, but there also has to be a role for council housing, social rented housing and other forms of intermediate housing as well. At the same time, because it will take some time for supply to meet demand, we need to fix the private rental market as well.

We have made progress and we are in a far better place than we were in 2016 when I became Mayor, but there is still so much more to do and that is why it is important the Government works with us. Unless we fix the housing crisis in London, we are going to continue to have some of the problems experienced on a regular basis in your borough that we experience across our city.

Photo of Sem Moema Sem Moema Labour

Thank you. If I could just come to the point that you made about private renters, as a case study, we have the case in Hackney of the Somerford Grove renters, who are a group of tenants in 170 flats administered by an agency and owned by an offshore landlord with no personal interest in the needs of the tenants who pay their rents. During the pandemic, like many people affected by transport, working in the transport sector, they did the right thing and followed MHCLG guidance. They asked for rent reductions. Instead of being given rent reductions, because they were working zero hours and on contracts, they were handed eviction notices.

What I want to know is whether you believe that the powers that councils have are enough to protect private renters and do you think that councils are doing what they can to protect those people, and are using those powers that they do have correctly?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

There are some councils that are using all the powers they have and are using also the bully pulpit of town halls to try to put pressure on landowners and landlords, and there are some councils that are not. In both scenarios, councils do not have enough powers. We do not have enough powers. The Government cannot have a laissez-faire approach towards this. What happens is that bad landlords take advantage of a situation that none of us could have foreseen.

Those tenants who are on zero-hours contracts have a choice. They can risk public health and go to work to get money to put food on the table and pay the rent, or they can follow the advice and stay home and self-isolate. They cannot do both when they have landlords who are putting pressure on them to pay the full amount of their rent.

You and I both know that once the moratorium on evictions ends, because there is a backlog of rent arrears built up, we are going to see huge numbers of people potentially being evicted from their homes. How is it good to have the porters and cleaners that we needed, the transport workers and shop workers that we needed, the junior nurses and teachers that we needed, losing their homes and having to live further away from the places they work? That is why it is really important for the Government to fix the private rental market. In the short term, give us the powers to introduce a form of rent control with some form of oversight. Otherwise, we will see these Londoners, whom we need, leaving the heart of our city.