LONDON NEEDS a form of rent control to help to solve the homes crisis, says would-be London Mayor Diane Abbott.
The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP told Parliament that: “They [rent controls] are a sensible and utterly necessary form of regulation to ensure stable and safe tenancies.” We should learn from the many types of control in Berlin, New York, Stockholm and other cities.
As for the worry that landlords would “simply reverse-engineer any rent cap by factoring in a potential increase from day one”, the answer would be not to set an absolute cap but to “impose a surcharge paid to the Mayor of London on any rents over a certain percentage of the market value”.
“This,” she said, “would allow landlords still to charge high rents if they wish but would also provide a hypothecated fund for the Mayor of London to pour into new affordable-housing developments.”
The MP, who has maintained a canny hesitancy to declare publicly join the throng to be Labour’s candidate for the London mayoralty also said that councils should be allowed to borrow to build.
Stating that the average London house costs £600,000 and that the average rent for a flat was more than £1,500 a month, she told the small number of fellow members listening to the debate that there were more than 50,000 brownfield sites in London and “we must incentivise development on them”.
To counter objections to planning applications for affordable-housing schemes, people living near by could be given council-tax breaks.
Abbott said: “This would mollify objections and actively encourage local campaigns for social-housing developments.”
Critics might call this a bribe. Perhaps it should be pointed out, however, that the incentive concept has long been a feature of planning: to win permission, developers are expected to fund what used to be called “planning gain”.
Charlotte George, of Hackney Green Party, said: “I find it interesting that Diane Abbott is carving out her own niche, supporting a lot of Green policies that are not Labour policies. Her party’s rent policy is weak: it still links to market rents instead of imposing caps.”
David Altheer 201114
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.
* Main picture: flats – old and new – everywhere, but what local worker can afford to rent them, when many have been bought by buy-to-leave investors?