sadiq khan wants to introduce rent control in london

Sadiq Khan discusses introducing rent control in the city in a leaked document -- but the power to introduce rent stability to alleviate the mounting housing crisis still ultimately lies with the government.

by Roisin Lanigan
11 December 2018, 11:50am

It’s an inescapable fact of life, like birth, death and taxes, that London’s rental market is a hell pit of despair. It’s a place where you can expect to pay upwards of £700 for a single room in a mouldy flat just because it’s within walking distance of Brixton tube station. It’s a place where the parameters of “liveable space” become more and more ill-defined by the week. A place where you might, even, be ashamed to show your relatives -- who will whisper that they can get a mortgage on a three-bedroom house outside London, for what you’re paying for said mouldy room.

To surmise, it’s a great city but the rental market sucks. And that’s exactly what Sadiq Khan is hoping to change.

According to a letter seen by the Guardian, the Mayor of London wants to introduce rent control to manage the overburdened and exploitative private rental market in the city. Rent control, which already exists in Berlin and New York (it’s the reason Monica and Rachel can live in that sick flat in Manhattan on waitress and chef wages), regulates and stabilises rent prices, with caps based on local averages, to prevent ridiculous price hikes. In his letter to Labour MP Karen Buck, Sadiq says he wants the same framework, which he called “a strategic approach to rent stabilisation and control”, to exist in London in an an attempt to help alleviate our spiralling housing crisis.

“The housing crisis is now having such an effect on a generation of Londoners that the arguments in favour of rent stabilisation and control are becoming overwhelming,” the Mayor wrote.

And he’s right. For many millennials the prospect of ever owning a home, particularly in London, is an impossible dream. Student loans, low wages and job instability, as well as the obvious factor of sky high rents all contribute to a generation of young people who are increasingly ‘locked out’ of any alternative to renting forever. Rent control, which existed for previous generations before being abolished and deregulated under Thatcher (obvi), wouldn’t eliminate all of those systemic, generational problems, but it would certainly help.

Let’s not rejoice just yet though.

For one, the letter acquired by the Guardian doesn’t outline any specifics of how rent control would actually be rolled out. Additionally the Mayor himself doesn’t have the power to introduce rent-control in London. Tenancies and renters rights are still governed by national legislation, and as the government are currently locked in a Brexit catastrophe deadlock, it doesn’t seem likely that rent controls will be top of the agenda anytime soon. It’s also worth noting that rent control doesn’t totally eliminate landlord exploitation -- in Dublin, where rent control has existed since the end of 2016 -- a housing crisis still exists, with extreme property prices now more expensive than at the height of Ireland’s "Celtic Tiger" boom, constant protests, and low income tenants are still routinely evicted or forced to share rooms in terrible conditions.

The housing crisis as it currently stands is systemic, and even if Sadiq Khan could push through rent control in London, this one step wouldn’t automatically solve the problems associated with high rent -- Slum landlords! Low wages! Areas of the city owned and then left abandoned by billionaire oligarchs -- but you know, every little helps.

Sadiq Khan