Friday, 27 March 2015

Cap private sector rents to ease housing crisis, says Ken Livingstone

Livingstone planning ‘Living rent’ for London

Labour candidate for London mayor Ken Livingstone will make plans for a ‘living rent’ the centrepiece of his housing strategy.

Speaking exclusively to Inside Housing, Mr Livingstone pledged to introduce a ‘living rent’ - similar to the London living wage - to tackle the housing crisis in the capital.

The pledge forms part of Mr Livingstone’s campaign to oust current mayor Boris Johnson in elections next May.

Under the plans landlords would be unable to raise rents above a specific threshold, allowing poorer people remain in their homes. It is not yet clear what the cap would be or how it would be calculated.

‘If you have a system where housing benefit will always meet the gap between what the landlord charges and what the tenant can afford rents will continue to rise,’ Mr Livingstone said. ‘Instead of a cap on housing benefit, we should have a cap on rents.’

Mr Livingstone revealed that housing would be central to his mayoral campaign, describing the 350,000 households on council waiting lists as ‘the biggest single problem we’ve got in London’.

‘We’re heading for a catastrophic housing problem… poorer people are being squeezed out by higher rents,’ he added.

Housing charity Shelter’s latest figures put average private rents in London for a two-bedroom property at £1,360 per month - two and a half times the cost in the rest of England.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said a rent cap would not solve wider housing issues: ‘The only way to bring rents down in the long term is to increase the supply of homes.’

Mr Livingstone’s living rent proposal pits him against private landlords who warn that rental caps could limit housing supply.

David Salusbury, chair of the National Landlords Association, said: ‘When rents were capped [by the Conservative government in the early 1980s], the private rented sector shrank from over half of all housing to just 8 per cent. Capping rents would only starve housing supply at a time of extremely high demand.’

Sources close to Mr Johnson said: ‘Putting a cap on rents would need primary legislation so it’s not something we’re worried about. Mr Johnson already has a London rent map [launched in January 2010] which shows what is a reasonable rent in different areas.’

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