Would you vote for rent control?

Will the promise of rent control be enough to secure Sadiq Khan a second term as London Mayor?

London Mayor Sadiq Khan launched his re-election campaign today. He is hoping to win votes by promising Londoners that he will introduce rent control in the capital if he is voted in for a second term in May. Speaking in Hackney, the Mayor said that if he wins a second term, that would give him an “undeniable and irresistible” mandate to enforce rent controls.  

But there is a problem with this pledge: capping rents is not something the Mayor has control over. Rent control has to be agreed by central government and there is nothing to suggest that this policy would be acceptable at Westminster. It would also put him at odds with landlords, with the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association calling out the policy as”disastrous”.

Sadiq Khan claims he has “massively increased” affordable homes in London but has been blocked from making private rent more affordable. However, rival Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey said rent controls always led to higher rents.

The other candidates in the race are also promising to improve the London housing market:

  • Liberal Democrat Siobhan Benita plans to bring thousands of empty homes back into use and use TfL -owned land to build rental homes;
  • Green Party candidate Sian Berry would freeze rents;
  • Independent candidate Rory Stewart pledges to establish a Mayor’s Building Company to build hundreds of thousands of new homes; and
  • Tory candidate Shaun Bailey promises to build new homes in London via a City Hall-controlled building programme that would assume control of the building process in London.

Maryanne Bowring, Group MD at Ringley has consistently argued against rent control. Commenting on the London Mayor’s pledge, she says: “Rent controls have time and time again been proven not to work in cities across the world. The war on landlords by all sides needs to stop. The biggest casualties will be renters being forced to pay more as buy-to-let investors sell up after facing the threat of reduced returns: they already have to grapple with harsher regulation, extra stamp duty, and reduced mortgage relief.

 “Build-to-rent will bring much-needed supply but still only makes up a fraction of the market and any form of rent control will discourage further investment into the sector, reducing the supply of potential new rental homes.”

Maryanne’s view is that London has a huge unmet demand for rental properties and any policies that restrict new supply – like rent controls – will only force rents to rise. “This could lead to the creation of a rental black market,” she says.

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