Labour’s London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has put his call for powers to control private rents at the heart of his campaign to be re-elected this May.
Khan - no doubt aware of the fact that some 2.4m Londoners live in private rented accommodation - put the issue at the forefront of the launch of his campaign yesterday.
He says: “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.
“That’s why I am making the mayoral election on 7 May a referendum on rent controls – showing Londoners that I will stand up for renters.
“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. 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.”
However, professional bodies in the rental sector have long opposed rent controls and the the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association have issued a joint statement identifying a range of organisations that warn against the introduction of them.
For example, research by Knight Frank shows that last year in the capital there were 6.1 prospective tenants for every rental listing, up from 4.7 in 2018.
The Centre for Cities is warning that strict rent controls “would close off London to new residents” and the Resolution Foundation comments that holding down the true market price of private housing via rent controls rather than increasing housing supply is unlikely to succeed.
Professor Kath Scanlon, a housing expert at the London School of Economics last year warned that the Mayor’s rent control proposals would result in landlords simply deciding that they were no longer going to rent their properties.
The landlord associations’ statement says: “Rent controls might appear attractive to those already renting but they would be a disaster for anyone looking for somewhere to rent.
“All they would achieve, as history and experience elsewhere tells us, is to drive landlords out of the market exacerbating an already serious shortage of homes available. Instead of putting out simplistic and superficially appealing proposals in attempt to win votes, the Mayor should focus on boosting the supply of available housing using the powers he already has.
“Only then will he make any discernible impact on improving the affordability of housing across the capital.”
David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, adds: “Rent controls do not work; it hits hardest those its designed to help the most, and the Mayor of London has failed to learn the lessons of history. The last time rent controls existed in this country, the private rented sector shrunk to the lowest levels ever recorded.
"At a time of demand for PRS homes massively outstripping supply, rent controls will cause the sector to shrink. In turn, this means professional landlords will only take the very best tenants, and the vulnerable and low-income people that rent controls are designed to help, will be forced into the hands of rogue and criminal operators, who may exploit them.”