“This election is a referendum on housing”, Sadiq Khan has claimed. He's right – no section of London society has been let down as badly as its legion of renters.
There are problems across the full scale of renting, not least with the dearth of affordable housing.
The capital’s private lettings market is outdated, fragmented and it is the renters who are suffering as a direct result of extortionate fees, rising monthly rents and absentee investor-landlords.
London is attractive to young professional talent because of its diverse range of opportunities, but as the current rental set-up drives talented millennials away, its skills shortage will worsen.
This is quite simply because graduates cannot afford the exorbitant costs associated with living there.
It is therefore imperative that renters are fast-tracked to the top of the political agenda – and this must start with the Mayoral election.
The candidate who promises to make renters’ lives better will win the election – such is the frustration and anger shared by the 1.9m private renters across London.
So what are the solutions?
Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith have recognised the need for change in their respective housing agendas, but there needs to be more of a focus on renting.
Goldsmith in particular needs to be bolder in his stance that technology will be the future of the property industry, forcing agents to raise their game fast.
Convenience and efficiency will undoubtedly prevail in the long-run – it’s what renters are looking for to free them from the inflexible and unforgiving rental process.
process. Lib Dem candidate Caroline Pidgeon is promising to have a real impact on improving the lives of renters by enforcing housing standards and promoting longer tenancies to give tenants security, but I don’t believe the first step should be to interfere with regulations.
Regardless, I urge the next Mayor to tackle housing availability as his or her number one priority.
This month’s Budget did nothing to help tackle the issue in terms of a fresh promise of new properties.
One way of doing this would be for the Mayor to work on lobbying Whitehall to help landlords who are competing to develop land specifically for build-to-let purposes.
We need a mayor who will deliver the step-change in house building that London needs, not simply sit and watch the situation deteriorate.
The London renting crisis needs to be a priority for the next mayor. A generation of uninspiring politicians have failed to even acknowledge the existence of private tenants across the capital, let alone tackle the deep-rooted issues causing widespread angst and unrest.
The candidate who wins the renter’s vote will be the person who moves with pace and conviction to give a fair deal to London’s forgotten renters – and the one who will be celebrating come 5th May.