As officials count the votes from London’s mayoral election, reports suggest that it’s simply too close to call, and we don’t know yet who will be celebrating (or commiserating) over the Bank Holiday weekend.
But whoever London’s next Mayor is, they will have to sober up to the realities facing the capital, in particular those around housing.
We’ve heard some big pledges from the candidates. All of them backed Shelter’s campaign, stating that they’ll create Homes for London, which would be a key department of the Greater London Authority, responsible for fixing all of the capital’s housing whilst bringing the current myriad agencies under one banner.
If Homes for London is to be a success, it will take much more than a re-brand. It’s an opportunity for the next Mayor to put housing centre stage and develop innovative solutions, particularly around reforming London’s overheated private rented sector.
Almost a quarter of London’s families now rent privately, a hefty increase of more than two thirds in just a couple of years. Homes for London must find ways of encouraging longer term tenancies to help these households; rental contracts of six months simply don’t offer the stability that families with young children need.
London also needs tougher action on rogue landlords. London boroughs received almost 15,000 formal complaints about private rented housing last year. Despite this, only 36 landlords were prosecuted.
And of course we can’t forget supply, the long term solution to the capital’s housing crisis. With more land and more money following changes in the Localism Act, the Mayor has more control over this area, and should be delivering at least 34,000 homes every year. The bigger challenge is finding the funding necessary and providing homes that are genuinely affordable.
Fixing these problems won’t be easy, and any of these changes alone won’t be enough in themselves. But the next Mayor desperately needs to start meeting the challenges posed by London’s housing crisis. It has serious knock-on effects for the capital’s economy, and huge impacts on the wellbeing of Londoners.
Moreover, with the city’s population set to rise to over 9 million by 2020, these issues will only become more acute.
With new housing powers and a sharpened focus through Homes for London, it is high time for the next Mayor to start this work.