Race for London 2016 – Sadiq Khan

Shadow Minister for London, Sadiq Khan is Labour’s candidate for London Mayor

Sadiq Khan has fired the starting pistol in the race to become London’s next mayor by being the first to publish an election manifesto.

I’d recommend that any landlords living, or letting property in the Capital download a copy at: http://www.sadiq.london/homes_for_londoners_manifesto

Before I lose the interest of all those readers outside of the M25 (who will be understandably annoyed at all of the media coverage the Capital’s elections receive), it is worth bearing in mind that politicians take notice of London and it has a disproportionate influence on the policies which eventually govern all of our lives.

Kicking off the policy debate Mr Khan presented the Capital’s electorate with ’10 priorities for London’ three of which seem really pertinent for a blog aimed at private landlords.

Sadiq’s 10 Priorities

  1. Tackle the housing crisis, building thousands more homes for Londoners each year, setting an ambitious target of 50 per cent of new homes being genuinely affordable, and getting a better deal for renters.
  2.  Freeze London transport fares for four years and introduce a one-hour bus ‘Hopper’ ticket, paid for by making TfL more efficient and exploring new revenue-raising opportunities. Londoners won’t pay a penny more for their travel in 2020 than they do today.
  3.  Make London safer, with action to restore neighbourhood policing, tackle gangs and knife crime, a plan to tackle the spread of extremism, and a review of the resourcing of our fire service.
  4.  Be the most pro-business Mayor yet, working in partnership with industry to deliver on skills, infrastructure, and growth.
  5.  Restore London’s air quality to legal and safe levels, with action to make travel greener and pedestrianise Oxford Street, while protecting the green belt.
  6.  Set up ‘Skills for Londoners’ to ensure all Londoners have the opportunity to train in the skills that our economy needs.
  7.  Tackle low pay, working with employers to make London a Living Wage City.
  8.  Challenge gender inequality, working to close the gender pay gap and support women to break the glass ceiling while helping to remove the barriers to women’s success.
  9.  Make cycling and walking safer, with more segregated cycle routes, action on dangerous junctions, and safer lorries.
  10.  Make London a fairer and more tolerant city, open and accessible to all, and one in which all can live and prosper free from prejudice.

Why these three?

Well No.1 is pretty self-explanatory, he wants a ‘better deal for renters’. It could mean almost anything, but it’s about the PRS.

No.4 outlines plans to be pro-business. Property is BIG business in London – so a big tick on that count. Although it remains to be seen whether landlords constitute the type of business this candidate wants to encourage in London.

And No.7? I’ve highlighted this one because affordability is an issue in the City and should be looked at from the point of view of income versus outgoings. If incomes go up, affordability becomes less of an issue and the pressure reduces. Easier said than done though. 

So far so good….. Maybe?

Headline pledges tend to err towards generic, and have to appeal to the largest possible section of society. However, when the candidates start to focus on the important issues of the day, the rhetoric can become more divisive.

So how does the Labour candidate plan to work with the PRS?

All of the candidates for Mayor are likely to have two kinds of manifesto commitments. (1) Those things that they would like to have control of, but don’t. (2) Those things they can do.

Firmly in the first category, as Mayor, Sadiq Khan would:

“Fight for the Mayor and London councils to have a greater say in strengthening renters’ rights over tenancy lengths, rent rises, and the quality of accommodation”

Enough said: security of tenure and rent control. Not exactly original, but not very surprising either. In fact the previous Labour candidate (Ken Livingstone) included the  commitment to campaign for…..

“legislation for a fairer system of controlling rent increases based on successful schemes in other countries”

…….in his 2012 manifesto. So little change there.

All of which would require primary legislation and a great deal of agreement from Westminster, for which I suspect Mr Khan would have to wait for a Corbyn government. So lets worry about that later.

Moving on to the issues under the control of the Mayor…

So far as the sector is concerned Mr Khan goes on to highlight three policies of direct importance:

  • Setting up a London-wide not-for-profit lettings agency for good landlords, building on the work that councils have started, and ending rip-off fees for renters.

Nothing especially exciting, but equally nothing devastating. ‘Rip-off’ fees are an easy target for politicians of all all sides, although rarely defined or understood. They have also been the subject of a fair amount of regulation of late, much of which is yet to be truly tested.

  • Naming and shaming rogue landlords and ensure tenants have access to this information online.

Again, assuming we are talking about criminals, convicted of serious housing or related offences, this is already public information. Likewise driving wilful criminals out of business should be good for us all – although I suspect the devil will be in the detail.

  • Working alongside boroughs to promote landlord licensing schemes to drive up standards, and make the case to government for London-wide landlord licensing.

Here’s the one which I find a little odd. Driving up standards is of course good and to be supported, but time and time again we see licensing being justified on the basis of standards without any real evidence of success.

Don’t get me wrong, licensing can be very effective, but usually only when used sensibly and targeted at problem areas. Surely even the most cynical of Londoner would find it difficult to argue that all of London’s 32 boroughs (and the City for good measure) are in dire need of licensing.

If this is the case, why aren’t they already licensed?

This makes me a little concerned about Mr Khan’s attitude towards the London Boroughs. After-all they already have the legal powers to introduce licensing if they feel (and can justify) the need. At present fourteen boroughs have opted for additional, or selective licensing, or a combination of both and most only license a small proportion of their local area.

Were city-wide licensing thrust on the entire Greater London area I have sincere doubts about the ability of town halls to cope with its administration.

On a positive note Sadiq Khan and his team have grasped the importance of increasing supply, and have some interesting things to say about tenure blind developments and housing for older people. The latter of which is far too often overlooked and is a growing issue.

Above all it is great to see housing taking such a prominent place in a major manifesto – but to what extent he has the right approach, that’s reader’s choice.

CAVEAT: Although the NLA is unashamedly pro-landlord, it remains politically neutral. As such we have not singled out Sadiq Khan, he simply published his manifesto first. An appraisal of Zac Goldsmith’s policies will follow – just as soon as we know what they are.

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