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Embattled Labour mayor wants rent controls - but has no powers

Embattled London Labour mayor Sadiq Khan says he wants rent controls to be introduced in the capital’s private rental sector, but he can’t do anything about it.

Khan has in recent days been sharply criticised for the uncertainty that surrounds his awareness of the most recent delays to and overspend by the huge Crossrail project. 

The former chairman of Crossrail, Sir Terry Morgan, says he raised concerns over progress on the project with Khan in July; the may himself claims he found out about the latest delay two days before it was made public in late August, despite having regular briefings with the Crossrail board.

Now, while that debate continues, Khan has announced in a letter to an MP that he wants rent controls in London. His letter comes despite what many believe to be an absence of any formal powers vested in the mayor’s office to introduce such controls.

In a letter to Labour MP Karen Buck, who is leading the Homes (Fit for Human Habitation) Bill currently going through Parliament, Khan says London needs a “strategic approach to rent stabilisation and control.”

The letter - which has appeared in The Guardian - says: “I have long advocated such reforms; in 2013, I suggested reforms could give renters the right to longer-term tenancies and predictable rents. 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.”

However, Khan faces opposition from David Smith, policy director for the Residential Landlords Association, who says: “It is curious that the Mayor is considering introducing rent controls at a time when rents in London are falling according to official data.”

The most recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in the year to October 2018, rents in London fell by 0.2 per cent.  

“The Labour Party in Wales has previously rejected rent controls arguing that they reduce incentives to invest in new property when we need more and lead to a reduction in the quality of housing. The same would be the case in London” says Smith.

“All evidence around the world shows that where forms of rent control are in place, decoupling prices from the value of properties hurts both tenants and landlords. In the end what is needed is a relentless focus on boosting the supply of housing.”

Poll: Are rent controls ever useful in the private rental sector?

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