Housing

4 June 2017 Just Space and GLA officers held a detailed round table meeting on housing policy issues in the spring. A detailed report of the meeting is here (PDF).

March 14 2017 Just Space submitted its response to the Mayor’s draft good practice guide on Estate Regeneration.

February 28 2017 Just Space responds to the consultation on the mayor’s draft guidance on Affordable Housing and Viability

February 27 2017: Just Space writes to the GLA about how the Strategic Housing Market Analysis (SHMA) should be done.The key issue is to ensure  that forecasts of need and demand for housing are done in relation to the income distribution of Londoners (with and without benefits) – and thus kept entirely separate from the ever-changing categories of housing supply: “affordable rent”, “London Living Rent” and so on.  js-on-shma-feb-2017

January 2017: Just Space comments to GLA on how the Housing Land Availability Analysis (SHLAA) should be done. Our main concerns are that workspace (industrial, office and retail) must be protected to enable the diverse economy of London to flourish and that existing social housing stocks should be conserved. Detailed submission is here.

This is one of a number of pages/topics about the work of Just Space groups preparing positions and demands for what goes in the next London Plan and related strategies. The Next London Plan menu takes you there.

Most recent postings first; scroll down for earlier material.

February 28 2017: Just Space will submit observations on the GLA’s draft guidance on Affordable Housing and Viability assessment. Outline here.

Written in spring 2016: Housing is such a crucial and vast topic that two working groups may be needed, for example one on affordability, targets for housing of various types, densities and land supply; another on development mechanisms, tenure and ownership forms, diversifying the forms of housing…

Scroll down to find the February 2016 briefing document and, further down, with a red heading, notes from the workshop discussion.

Relevant sections of the October 2015 Visions… document are:

Housing that is genuinely affordable
London Plan targets for social-rented homes have always been set at a lower level than GLA evidence suggests is required. At the same time, targets for both market and intermediate housing have been at higher levels than needed. Annual monitoring reports of the London Plan show that social housing targets have, since 2004, only been half-met. The result has been that housing waiting lists and overcrowding continue to rise.
The official definition of affordable housing suggests that anything other than market housing is ‘affordable’. This definition is inaccurate and misleading. This “affordable housing con” has risen to a new level with the introduction of ‘affordable rent’ homes.
Delivery failures of social-rented homes are exacerbated by continued unnecessary demolition of council estates.

Increasing evidence shows that lower income households are being forced out of London.

Key issues
1. To meet London’s housing need, a majority of all homes built should be social rented
2. An accurate description of affordable housing should be developed. Having paid housing costs, a household should still have sufficient left to meet all other needs without having to claim housing benefit.
3. Public land should be prioritised for social rented homes.
4. Demolition of council estates should not occur without a full analysis of the benefits and impacts (social, economic and environmental) compared to refurbishment and a ballot of tenants and leaseholders.

Alternative forms of housing delivery, ownership and management
The attention given to alternative forms of housing provision and delivery should be strengthened. In particular:

1. Research and studies should further explore the contributions which could be made by the expansion of alternative forms of housing delivery, ownership and management to meeting the needs of low- and middle- income households in London and to making best use of the available land and the building stock.
2. The London Plan (and other Mayoral strategies) should focus especially on cooperative, co-housing, community self-build and Community Land Trust approaches which could ensure the permanent affordability of existing and newly-developed housing and potentially meet the needs of an ageing population and of groups needing community support as well as distinct expressed needs such as those of BAME groups and Gypsies and Travellers.
3. Plans for the new London Land Commission should prioritise the use of some of London’s publicly-owned land for this purpose and ensure that large development sites always include some alternative forms of housing.

Some of the materials from the July community conference will be relevant.

Briefing document on private renting for the 4 February 2016 conference:

Housing issues are always central in London planning and are becoming more controversial as the years pass. The Housing working group has been developing housing policy by drawing on community groups’ ideas, campaign groups, evidence drawn from current work and looking at possible implementation mechanisms. The issues are all the more urgent as welfare reforms have affected the way in which housing is being accessed, along with potential changes accompanying the Housing and Planning Bill 2016 currently going through parliament.

Most of the current London Plan’s “affordable housing” is not affordable to the majority of households in London. Therefore the term “affordable housing” should be removed from any Mayoral or borough planning documents. The greatest levels of unmet housing need in London ae for not-for-profit rented homes.

Evidence shows that increasingly low income households are being forced out of London, or to live in poor quality or over-crowded homes with detrimental consequences to their health and well-being. Delivery failures of social-rented homes are exacerbated by necessary demolition of council estates. It is essential to maintain, retrofit and refurbish existing homes, for social, economic, and environmental reasons and benefit. The seriousness of the housing crisis requires each new home to be an additional rather than a replacement home.

For many years, the private rented sector (PRS) has been seen as the poor relation of housing and at best has been viewed as a temporary stop-off on ‘the journey to home ownership’. According to the New Policy Institute 2015, there are 2.2 million people in the private rented sector in London, 860,000 are in poverty (38%). However, buying a home is not a realistic option for majority and policymakers need to come to terms with the PRS as a permanent home for a growing proportion of the capital’s residents.

 The Mayor to seek devolved housing powers from Central Government to the GLA and Boroughs to address London’s Housing Emergency. This could include powers on rent control, taxation and land acquisition and disposal.

Justification

Research is required into specific devolved housing powers and analysis of the existing housing powers that lie with Central Government, Mayor and Boroughs

 The Mayor to seek devolved powers to introduce city-wide rent control, based on Living Rent formula. Rent control will include both residential and commercial rent.

Justification

The London Living Rent is currently being calculated by Matt Padley and other researchers at Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy. Further research will be undertaken, including into the relationship with the minimum Income Standard. Shelter, Generation Rent and the Highbury Group recommend that rent control should be set at 30% of lowest quartile income (across each Borough). The average London rent is £1,500 a month (Generation Rent, 2015). In 2013, the Ealing Borough figure for lowest quartile median income was £19, 958. Rent set at 30% would be £496.50 a month.

 The Mayor to set up a London Landlord License scheme OR support proposals from Boroughs to set up mandatory licensing schemes AND expand and enlarge social letting agencies. These will requires landlords to offer 5 year assured tenancies for private tenants and achieve energy efficiency and decent homes standards.

 Justification

5 year tenancies are essential for family security and stability. Around half of the Boroughs are planning to introduce some form of landlord licensing scheme, but lack of resources and weak enforcement mean these may not work properly. A London wide scheme or GLA support Borough schemes is required. This has been recently achieved by Bristol City Council, who approved a landlord charter submitted to them by Acorn Housing campaigners. Schemes must be mandatory, not voluntary schemes like the London Rental Standard. Energy Efficiency measures should be a compulsory part of a London landlord license, so that private renters do not have to go without heating in poorly insulated homes.

The Mayor to set up a private renter’s forum that gives voice to private renter groups in policy making and gives them representation on the London Assembly Housing Committee. The revamped Homes for London forum will be the Mayor’s key engagement structure for Housing, its remit including policy, delivery and monitoring functions and with a full complement of tenant and community representation.

 

Justification

Housing policy in London needs to recognise the growing numbers of private renters in the capital, and ensure that any future strategy has tenant engagement and input at its heart. Such an approach will allow the GLA to reflect the diversity of the sector but also to ensure that private renters can provide information and data that is currently unavailable to government bodies.

 Resource and local groups working on housing issues

Renters’ Rights London www.rentersrightslondon.org

Camden Federation of Private Tenants http://cfpt.org.uk

ACORN

HACKNEY RENTERS – DIGS

Islington Private Tenants  @IslingtonPRS

Radical Housing Network

Architects for Social Housing @ASH_housing

London Federation of Housing Co-ops

London Tenants Federation – mainly council tenants, though includes some Housing Association tenants and some leaseholders on Council estates

Generation Rent – see their Renters manifesto

Advice4renters

Take back the City

Highbury Group

Shelter has done some work on private rented sector research

New Policy Institute on private sector renting and older people’s housing

On “living rent” there is work carried out by Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Savills consultancy wing

DEMOS has done work on older people’s housing (see pg39 for recommendations)

LSE work on housing

Dolphin Housing fair rental model

 

Bibliography

The Rent Trap: How we Fell into It and How we Get Out of ItRosie WalkerSamir Jeraj to be published in March 2016 by Pluto Press

March: London Assembly report on private renting. https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/assembly/new-mayor-must-support-generation-rent

Bowie, D.  2010.  Politics, Planning and  Homes  in  a  World  City.  London:  Routledge

Dorling, D.  2013.  All that is  solid:  The  great  housing  disaster.  London:  Penguin.

Edwards, M.  2015.  “Prospects  for  land,  rent  and  housing  in  UK  cities”,  Working Paper  18,  Foresight  Future  of  Cities  Project,  Government  Office  for  Science,  free download  from  https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/future-of-cities-working-papers  or  from  http://societycould.wordpress.com

Edwards, M. 2016. “Housing crisis in London” CITY – forthcoming issue on London with open access online version (April)

Fernandes, Edesio. 2007. “Constructing the ‘right to the city’ in Brazil” Social and Legal Studies. 16(2):201-219 http://1mundoreal.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Edesio-Fernandes-Constructing-The-Right-to-the-City-in-Brazil.pdf

Just  Space.  2014b.  Staying  Put  –  an  anti-­‐gentrification  handbook  for  estates, produced  with  Southwark  Notes  and  the  London  tenants Federation  http://southwarknotes.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/staying-put-an‐anti‐gentrification‐handbook‐for‐council‐estates‐in‐london

Lipietz, Barbara, Richard Lee and Sharon Hayward, 2014. “Just  Space:  Building  a  community-based  voice  for  London planning”,   CITY,   18(2): 214- 225  free download http://tinyurl.com/zdrstbn

Scanlon, K. and B. Kochan, Eds. (2011) Towards a sustainable private rented sector London, LSE London http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/56070/ and see her other and more recent publications

Watt, P.  2009. “Housing stock transfers, regeneration and state-led gentrification in London”. Urban Policy and  Research  27(3):  229-242. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08111140903154147#.VqN8sFKjAug

Will, J. 2012 “The geography of community and political organisation in London today” Political Geography, 31(2): 114-126 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0962629811001879

Just Space workshop on private renters: Living rent model and landlord licensing 4th February 2016 3pm

Robert Taylor Camden Federation of Private Tenants – facilitator
Rosie Walker Renters’ Rights London – facilitator
Agnes Deboulet Apuuii, Paris
Alessandra Mossa LSE research fellow on informal housing in London
Alistair Murray Housing Justice – Christian charity on housing and homelessness
Anne Gray Our Tottenham, Haringey Green Party
Chris Graham LTF – Islington council tenant/leaseholder
Daniel Fitzpatrick UCL Bartlett School of Planning
Debbie Kennett London Gyspy and Traveller Unit
Deborah Grayson GLC story project – how do you organise private renters?
Dolly Mace LTF
Gabriella Toma Advice4renters
Glenn McMahon Tower Hamlets Renters
Katherine Wilkinson Advice4renters
Kathleen Egan Age UK London
Michael Cunningham Advice4renters – Brent
Michael Edwards UCL Bartlett School of Planning – Just Space
Sue Ansarie Just Space
Thomas Hoepfner New Garden City Alliance

Rosie Walker (Renters Rights London) introduced the meeting by talking about the project funded by Trust for London which is campaigning on rent issues, evictions and speaks having herself been living in 15 houses over 15 years as a private renter and feeling ripped off by letting agents, living with strangers, having no-fault evictions, and living in poor damp conditions, repeatedly. Private renters in London are familiar with all this. So what do we do? Renters Rights London as a small project: 2.5 million people rent in London but who have no time, energy or inclination to things like occupying buildings or fighting the police because of jobs and other commitments that come first. Therefore it is important to arm people with the right knowledge so they can face up to harassment from landlord or refuse to pay extortionate letting agents fees. So we are interested in changing everyday behaviour and everyday awareness. Have to introduce the concept of Renters’ Rights to a generation that has no notion they exist at all. Deregulation happened in 1989, so many people don’t understand there could be such a thing as renters’ rights – so that becomes the baseline we are aiming for and then you add detail on top. It is common to hear: “It’s my landlord’s house, they can do what they want”. No – that is untrue and there are basic rights that renters have. It is the landlord’s property, but it’s your home. There are some basic rights and that’s the first step. So we try and develop people’s understanding, do a newsletter, policy news, media work, and try to raise awareness of the existing powers that councils have so that renters can actually have some influence locally. It’s not a very sexy area of politics. But that’s the way we get real social change – it can be through these tiny little details in policy documents. So we try and get people to understand what the council can and can’t do.

For example, if you look on the website [http://www.rentersrightslondon.org] there’s a Renters Index which compares local councils so you can see what they are doing. Some councils are really trying, like Islington, Camden; Newham are trying hard and it’s interesting to see what they are doing for private renters. I try and structure people’s anger as they often rush in to protest without being aware of what they are protesting about and so basic things like informing them about legislation, such as Section 21 (a ‘no fault eviction notice’), possibly the worst bit of housing legislation there is, introduced by the 1988 housing act, where the landlord can evict you for no reason – because they don’t like you – anything – and it is totally legal. The basic situation of housing in London is that you have a legal right to 6 months security of tenure and if lucky 12. Security of tenure means how long you can stay without being evicted. Completely uncontrolled rents and very very low standards. The only exits from private renting are home ownership or social renting, both of which are blocked in London, unless you have inherited wealth and social housing waiting lists are decades long. This is detailed in a book I have co-written with Samir Jiraj coming out next month “Rent Trap”. It is bleak but there are a few glimmers of hope.

There has been tiny change in section 21, which has been slightly restricted by 20 years of hard lobbying and struggle by housing organisations especially Shelter, but it is tough to change the law as there is a very strong landlord lobby, which I detail in the book. There is a bit of hope in licensing as a thing councils can do for all private landlords, who in return for the license would have to meet certain conditions, including inspections, and so they are visible not only to renters, but to the taxman, which is a reason most landlords object. It is not going to solve everything and some councils are doing it in a very weak way so they give out a license and they don’t check standards – but as a tool that can be used it is there.

The Housing and Planning Bill is about national policy not London, involves destroying social housing, but there are a few good points. In particular five things are good for private renters, and shouldn’t be amended:

  • Rogue landlord database that councils can share
  • Banning orders for worst landlords if they are not meeting standards
  • Extension of rent repayment orders, if standards are low then councils can recoup their money if renters on housing benefits, and if not on housing benefit renters can get their money back
  • Councils can sue landlords in civil courts and keep the money they get
  • Tougher ‘fit and property person’ tests for landlord licensing

On the negative side there is the new abandonment procedure, which will make it easier for landlords to evict more quickly when a flat appears to have been abandoned by tenants – but the minimum is 12 weeks, there are loopholes like if tenants are in hospital or have gone away, but in reality is not much quicker than S21.

In terms of housing organising and housing campaigning for renters rights – we need a spectrum of groups. People inside the tent engaging with policymakers and engaging with politicians, and people protesting on the streets – and they have to work in tandem – we can’t have one without the other. The best campaigners put the cause first, rather than their interest. The best ones want to campaign themselves out of existence. There’s a lot of tribalism, narcissism, small differences, but like climate change campaigning, it needs a lot of heavy lifting from government. So you can do some campaigning through the media and protest, but the bigger picture needs to be done by engaging with politicians which can be demoralising sometimes.

Our idea for a London Renters manifesto is important. Mayor does not have much power at the moment so we have to understand the sorts of powers the Mayor has, and working out which bits need to be changed. London Renters has prepared a “What renters can do locally” guide as groups or individuals and a “Know your rights” guide based on common things that are heard (please email rosie@cfpt.org.uk to get a paper copy)

London Manifesto – we need to introduce a London Housing Bill so that London, as prime property capital of the world, can raise its own taxes on property. That will give the Mayor devolved power to actually make housing policy that fits London’s unique circumstances. Housing in Scotland is devolved; housing in Wales is devolved; there’s no reason t shouldn’t be devolved in London – in most European cities it is devolved to local level and then we can make it fit more to London’s circumstances. That would be a bold thing for the Mayor to do – Introduce a London Housing Bill, to go through parliament and they would have to threaten to resign if it did not passed.

We would like to see proper private rental tenant representation at GLA. We are talking to Sian Berry next week, who has an idea for funding a London Renters Union. That would have to be more than a talking shop – a lot of councils say we would like to have a renters union or consulting forum for renters – it would need to have some political bite.

Keep the Olympic precept, (variable depending on councils but about £25 a year per household) is added onto council tax to pay for the Olympics, which is due to be phased out, but it could be changed into a housing precept used to fund social housing programme for London.

Affordability – we need to scrap “affordable” as a term which is defined at 80% market rate which is not affordable.

We need to encourage landlords to charge the Living rent – Matt Padley calculating what a London living rent should be and rather than just a proportion of income it is also based on circumstances – kids, whether you live on your own or share a house. It would be like the London Living Wage – and could be a condition of a London landlord licensing scheme.

Rent control: Lots of successful models across Europe, for example the Berlin recent reform model is permitting rent increase to a maximum of 10% above median rent of an area; Sweden is based on a points system that depends on housing size and quality and the features it may have or facilities it has nearby; there is also the flexible model – voluntary rent cap but anything plus is taxed at 50% – so it is an incentive for landlords and anything extra collected would be used to pay for social housing.

Welfare Reform: It’s a national thing but this has meant that Local Housing Allowance (LHA – the name for the Housing Benefit paid to private tenants) has been frozen between 2015-2020, and with rents going up all the time it’s a disaster which has serious implications on affordability – we need to end that freeze.

Planning-wise: Encourage councils to stand up to the bullying of developers, who run rings around councils. Viability assessments that developers have to do: see [http://tinyurl.com/q4vakmd]; Council staff sometimes don’t understand viability assessments, didn’t have the software to open documents, and the confidentiality makes planning process not transparent.

Subsidies need to remain in property in perpetuity – rather than current model where schemes can have discounts for buying flat and then it can be sold at market rate, so subsidy is absorbed by private home seller.

GLA set up a housing bank. Do away with shared ownership schemes which take worst of both worlds.

Landlord licensing scheme with council schemes for landlords joined up. Scrap voluntary regulation, which only 2% of landlords have taken up on.

Make energy efficiency measures so people can heat; Decent homes standards which applies to social housing, should be applied to private sector; Security of tenure: not just an issue in London, but 3-5 years tenancy have begun to be offered by institutional landlords – who can absorb shocks more easily – but could be made a condition of Landlord licensing.

Robert Taylor then introduced the experiences of Camden Federation of Private Tenants (CFPT) set up in 1980 for tenants to have a voice, funded by the local authority. Traditionally, the core of organisation were the older regulated rent controlled private tenants and assured short term tenancy members but membership has changed.

Private rent control system is extremely bureaucratic and not particularly sympathetic to tenants. The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) ran it and its going to be transferred into HMRC. The rent officers handbook is obscure, along with the rent formula which relates to inflation+5%, and with current interest rates does not make sense. Rent control needs devolved powers to work – for the Mayor to run a rent control system.

Alessandra Mossa (LSE Research fellow) presented a PRS project they carried out last year on different aspects including the process of finding a home, the imbalance in the relationship between landlords, agents and tenants, the poor conditions, the feeling of insecurity. This year her project is on “informal housing” in London and translate a concept that has been used to describe slum settlements in Latin America to describe the housing situation in the Global North. There are some aspects of the PRS that might be defined as informal, such as overcrowding and substandard conditions. We are focussing on the recent deregulation of short term lettings, through airbnb and other platforms, which take flats off the market and consequently increase the prices of the private rented sector. Looking at the data it’s a huge phenomenon in some parts of London as popular tourist destination. There are people with 100+ properties, pretending to be a landlord sharing spare room, but the data suggests that it is becoming a business. Multi-listing hosts that are actually real estate agents, renting for more than 90 days which is the limit that governments have set up or people who rent for more becoming pseudo hotel, without paying taxes, decreasing number of available flats on the market. Getting data from airbnb and applying to see if local authority landlords can do something – legislation has allowed landlords to rent through airbnb without registration, or control and local authority is without any power to enforce. Research being funded by LSE grant. Its aim is to collect evidence on changes to short term letting and what sort of impact it has on rental market sector. There is the impact of tourists, there are also anecdotal evidence of people jumping from house to house, without any kind of protection. Very similar to another housing phenomenon in London which is that of property guardianship phenomena. People living in this scheme – with no rights as a tenant – signing a commercial deal for the protection of warehouses/commercial buildings – see blog [https://propertyguardianresearch.wordpress.com ] on property guardianship, which started 15 years ago as a cheap option to renting.

It is good that airbnb is being talked about as a problem. Overlap between council housing and private renting, as once people do RTB and they become private tenants and can become landlords, then its let out on airbnb, and they become absentee landlord – with no management skills to cope. It also changes the character or fabric of the neighbourhood and different services are needed locally.

To see the impacts – Insideairbnb.com – gives a snapshot in September and gives an idea of impact of properties at borough level.

This is useful for a critique – for example currently working on a Haringey Borough Plan critique – and how much private rented is wasted through airbnb. Haringey solidarity group is working on exposing lettings agencies for exorbitant fees and conditions that they place on tenants, discriminating those on benefits, reference checking fees, contracts fees etc. Upfront costs can be up to £1000. How can we regulate lettings agency in the same way employment agencies are regulated?

Nationalisation of letting agencies by either the GLA setting up or local authorities. Same applies to licensing schemes on borough wide basis. Should it be GLA controlled – or local authorities would be better at doing it? This is the public sector intervening into the private sector. Are these ideas worth pursuing?

Islington Council is setting up scheme and Camden is doing it on a very small scale – but it needs to be scaled up and can local authorities scale up? There has also been talk of setting up this Homes for London by GLA.

If local boroughs are doing it now then we ought to see how it works there. But a cautionary thing is whether we should be demanding that the Mayor of London has these powers – we have to be careful in how it concentrates a lot of power in one person. Livingstone successfully argued that some budget should be devolved from Westminster to London, along with other powers in the Housing Act. Boris took over and reallocated this budget away from social housing and serious need, towards the so-called “affordable”, middle market and shared ownership schemes. Mayor could force recalcitrant boroughs Bromley and Bexley, but then we might have deeply reactionary Mayor then worse than having powers with the boroughs. We have to be careful in formulating our demands – gives the Mayor a lot of power.

Katherine (Advice4renters in Brent) told the group that Advice4Renters fights the council but at the same time try to stay close. The lead member for housing came into the office recently and wanted to find out about the Landlord licensing campaign – so what about the Ethical Lettings Agency idea – but its not happening.

It was pointed out that there could be a role for Mayor could work with the boroughs at a more sub-regional level. But local authorities tend to be risk averse, not very entrepreneurial and scared of license scheme – they spent £4million on developing a landlord licensing scheme but licensed very few. The mayor could be a facilitator – but risk in who becomes Mayor. Maybe not a role for state but for the charity sector- like CAB or a housing associations, then ask the good boroughs to join in.

Alistair Murray (Housing Justice) talked about the enabling role that charities can have such as St Mungos reletting scheme managing to let properties to people on benefits. The new Right to Rent legislation is concerning as it puts duties on landlords to report on people’s immigration status. Trying to encourage good landlordship is part of the story. Some other examples mentioned included charity Street Souls who have developed a scheme based in a warehouse where they recycle furniture and homeless work there and can live in flats at the top.

The discussion moved onto rent control and whether the Mayor seeking powers for rent control that happens in other cities – operating rent control at a city wide level rather than done nationally through the VOA – is rent control a blunt instrument?

In Brixton in 1970 rent was £3 a week with rent control. There was a problem in that there was not enough money from rent to keep the place going and adjustment was needed for emergency repairs etc and proper rent control is the way forward but it needs to be properly tuned.

London Living Rent has to be looked at in detail. If its 30% average median of income, that’s a way to say what is really affordable, regardless of tenure or who owns – council, private – the issue is affordability.

But – if you look at OECD statistics across developed countries 18% of income typically goes on housing costs, including heating bills etc. What is proposed in here is upside down – If you look back at the costs to run and manage council flats and what it costs to run +5% = rent ought to be then compared. Then multiplied by 5 to get the living wage. Not the other way around – median income but start with the costs. Tradition is not a third of income but 20%.

Rent control – there are some bad examples too where there is in an area a mixture of low rent rent controlled and market rent properties, ie what happened in parts of new York, or older (pre 1984) tenants in London where landlords try and get them out, therefore need to find a system that can be applied across the board.

Katherine (Advice4renters) pointed out that there was a big debate on rent control. Landlord organisations say that will make them retreat from the market – maybe that’s good and maybe it will take steam out of market bubble but it is risky. When houses become empty – municipalise.

Michael Edwards (UCL School of planning) mentioned the importance of the different groups represented here to bring together the different ideas on PRS issues that must be joined together and formulated systematically with the other demands on housing. He pointed out that he has a group of 3-4 students who will be working on supporting this work, to document the international literature better or work out the arithmetic of different formulae.

Anne Grey (Our Tottenham) introduced the problem of foreign investors because ~2/3 of property in London bought by foreign companies either to let or keep empty in order to make vast capital gains. Put some block to “buy-to-leave” and a scheme where local buyers should get first option to buy.

The Housing and Planning Bill: A lot of groups looking at it and mobilising, while going through the Lords very fast. People have been involved in the “Kill the Housing Bill” campaign with the position we have to stop the whole thing, but there is some good things in it and so we need to unpick it more carefully. And how do all the different groupings come together in a bit more of a united way? And is that possible? The question came up whether there were bits that were positive and what bits were being opposed and where there can be amendments? Are people involved in the broader campaign? [ Note that London Tenants Federation has briefings on H&P Bill ]

It seems like the Housing and Planning Bill is trying to play off tenures, tiny gains for private renters and with huge losses for social tenants. We have to resist that. But unless private renters go to meetings regarding the Housing Bill then most meetings (held for example in Camden) end up focussing on issues on social housing. There are crumbs of comfort – currently there seems to be a very unsophisticated view and we need a more sophisticated approach to that piece of legislation. But people have to be in the same room and all groups be represented. Meetings (organised by council) tend to focus on council tenants, because of the landlord function. We have been to multi-tenure meetings – but private tenants get sidelined as well as housing association tenants. Bring together those constituent groups – what is good for us, whats bad for us. What is needed is meetings for all tenures and then get the group to work together – then individual tenure groups can have separate breakout sessions.

There were mutli-tenure meetings but were they of any value? The London Tenants Federation used to attend a meeting like that at GLA with Duncan Bowie as chair of the housing supply for London sub-group of the Housing forum for London, and mainly developers were round the table, with only one voice representing renters. The whole concept of people renting would have never been looked at, especially in thinking what its like to live in new schemes and in planning terms.

Everyone should be signed up on the delegate list under the workshop.

The discussion then moved back to discrimination against people who are on housing benefits. Advice4renters talked about doing a survey on Willesden Green high street where there’s 30+ letting agents and seeing No DSS signs. Renters rights groups are now fighting but how to persuade lettings agents. A lot of charities are specifically aimed on people with housing benefit- but housing benefit is currently not viable in any case in London. Brighton Housing trust – if you can pay you pay lower than high street fee and subsidises people on lower income.

A parallel survey was carried out with local renters in Brent to see if was easy to comply with current regulations and they asked what the reason was for landlords to say No DSS – because councils so slow in payment through delays. Went to a meeting organised by the council – a landlord fair – where the council was saying do business with us – the council was saying we accept we haven’t been so great, but we are going to be better. It was pointed out however, that perhaps lettings agents also influence landlords. And it becomes through hearsay – its best not to.

The discussion moved onto forms of informal housing – for example, friends live in a warehouse development in Manor House where there is invisibility of quite a lot of people. So the improvement of private renters’ rights also means improving voting. Voter registration is also important and there must be ways of registering without permanent address, for example being able to register at work or trade union offices.

Every borough needs to have a renter group – one third of households rent privately and it is important to have groups to articulate demands. There is a growing private renters organisations which need to work together.

Discrimination – policing landlords looking at people’s immigration status for example, and also gypsy traveller community too. This needs to be included in a Landlord licensing scheme and how do you do that. There is an organisation called the Joint Council for welfare of Immigrants they are collecting evidence on the right to rent.

Rosie Walker’s own speaking notes are here: Rosie Walker JS notes 4 FEB 2016

The Rent Trap
How we Fell into It and How we Get Out of It

Rosie WalkerSamir Jeraj

to be published mid-March 2016

 

2015 GLA Supplementary Planning Guidance on Housing: https://justspace.org.uk/planning-level/greater-london/housing-in-london-revised-guidance-in-preparation/

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