London mayoral election will be referendum on rent controls, says Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan is expected to launch his campaign declaring that the London election in May will be a referendum on introducing rent controls in the capital.

Speaking at a housing estate in Hackney on Tuesday morning, the mayor of London will kick off his campaign for re-election with fresh commitments to stand up for renters.

The Labour incumbent is proposing a new private rent commission, with renters on its board, to implement and enforce measures to control rents and keep them at lower levels.

Khan is expected to say: “The case for rent controls is now absolutely undeniable. But Tory ministers have blocked us from introducing our plans for rent controls in London – and have simply said no. They have refused to give us the powers we need to make rent controls happen.

“That’s why today, I am making the mayoral election ‪on May 7th a referendum on rent controls – showing Londoners that I will stand up for renters. Because if Londoners re-elect me as their mayor ‪on May 7th‬, I want no one to have any doubt that it represents an undeniable and irresistible mandate for the introduction of rent controls in our city.”

The mayor has no statutory powers over the private rented sector, but last year he commissioned a report to explore how rent controls could be introduced in London.

It gave recommendations to improve security for private renters through tenancy and court reform, as well as specifying powers that central government should devolve to the mayor to control rents.

The mayor will say: “The Prime Minister will have to give us the powers we need. Because if he refuses to do so – he will be denying the express democratic will of millions of Londoners – who are crying out for rent controls.

“And as we have all heard Boris Johnson repeatedly say himself, the democratic will of the people must be respected – and it is not for politicians to frustrate it.

“The Tories and big landlord lobbyists might not like it, but Londoners need rent controls now. And if they vote for me ‪on May 7th, that is exactly what they will get.”

There are currently 2.4 million people privately renting in London, and the proportion has risen from 11% of the residents in 1990 to 26% in 2018.

Those renting privately spend on average around 43% of their income on rent, and the average private rent for a one-bedroom home in London is now more than the average for a three-bed home in every other region in England.

The mayor has not yet specified what form the controls would take, but many European and North American cities have policies in place to keep rents down.

In New York City, some rents are capped by a rent guidelines board, while others have their rent ‘stabilised’ or reset between tenancies.

Scotland recently introduced new laws that allow councils to apply to implement “rent pressure zones” – where rent increases are capped at inflation.

Khan is standing for his second term as the mayor of London in May, and has described it as a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservatives.

The Tory candidate is Shaun Bailey, while Siobhan Benita is standing for the Lib Dems and former Conservative MP Rory Stewart is running as an independent.

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