Tuesday 13 October 2020 11:14 am

New Lib Dem mayoral candidate calls for City of London offices to be converted into homes

The Liberal Democrats’ new London mayoral candidate has called for empty office space in the City of London to be converted into affordable housing.

Former MEP Luisa Porritt – who was today unveiled as the Liberal Democrats’ candidate for the 2021 mayoral election – told City A.M. that using offices left empty by a potential permanent switch to home working could help alleviate London’s housing shortages.

Porritt was chosen to represent the party in next May’s mayoral poll, after its previous candidate Siobhan Benita dropped out when the election was postponed by a year due to Covid.

Benita announced shortly after that she had quit the Lib Dems altogether due to “serious issues” with the party’s internal workings.

Porritt, a Camden councillor, won the nomination by default, after her opponent in the party’s primary race Sangeeta Sidhu-Robb was forced to quit when a video of her saying antisemitic comments in 1997 emerged.

Porritt said today that the “pandemic would change our city forever” and that “we need big ideas and urgent action to rise to the challenge”.

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“It’s out of touch to tell everyone to go back to work, because a lot of companies, particularly financial firms, are saying that working from home will be in palace for a long time or will be permanent,” she said.

“I think we should make more homes affordable in the centre of London by converting empty office spaces into homes. 

“We ned to make sure that the centre of London does not collapse and we could do that by making it somewhere to live and not just somewhere to commute to.”

When asked how office blocks with high commercial rents could be made affordable for low wage families, she said: “It’s not completely fleshed out yet, but there would need to be some kind of incentives and nudges to ensure it is affordable.”

Porritt’s candidacy comes at a time where the Liberal Democrats are struggling for relevance.

The party’s poll ratings have dropped even further since its disastrous 2019 election, with new leader Sir Ed Davey struggling to attract more than 5 per cent on most Westminster polls.

The party is also said to be strapped for cash.

City A.M. revealed last month that several Liberal Democrat insiders were concerned that the party had not done its due diligence when vetting Siddhu-Robb as a candidate and that she was brought in for her potential ability to provide large donations – a claim the party denies.