Fresh call by Greens for rent controls in London

Green mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett would demand powers to freeze capital’s private rents for two years and establish a ‘rent commission’, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Zoë Garbett outside parliament (credit LDRS/Noah Vickers)
Zoë Garbett outside parliament (credit LDRS/Noah Vickers)

The Green Party has made a renewed call for rent controls in London, as the capital’s mayoral race enters its final days.

Outlining her ‘renters charter’ in Westminster on Monday (29th), the Greens’ City Hall candidate Zoë Garbett said she would demand powers from the government to freeze the capital’s private rents for two years and establish a ‘rent commission’.

She dismissed concerns that such a move could choke off the supply of new homes, as she insisted it would be possible to “make sure the market doesn’t collapse” by involving landlords in the process.

The party’s co-leader, Carla Denyer, meanwhile said the election is not a “two horse race”, as Labour’s Sadiq Khan is polling well ahead of his Tory rival Susan Hall – meaning voters “can be confident that there’s no risk of letting a Conservative in”.

Denyer’s argument directly contrasts with Khan’s repeated claims that the election is a “close” race between him and Hall. The mayor has in the last few months polled between 13 and 25 points ahead of his Tory challenger.

Garbett said her charter is “all about getting a better deal for renters”, with her manifesto calling for the creation of “a fit-for-purpose public database to help renters know which landlords to avoid, so we can hold them to account”.

Khan launched an online ‘Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker’ in 2017, which publicly lists those convicted in London of a criminal housing offence or fined over £500.

But Garbett said the existing database was “failing in its purpose” as there is “too much data hidden”. The Evening Standard reported last year that some landlords have had their name hidden from the list by convincing officials there are “exceptional circumstances” why it is not in the public interest.

The government has argued that rent controls “do not work”, as they can reduce the supply of new properties coming onto the market and lead to declining standards. Housing Secretary Michael Gove last year said the measure would be “completely the wrong approach”.

Asked about this opposition to the policy, Garbett said: “I’ve researched rent controls and looked at the different models – and every city is different.

“This is about a rent commission that’s full of renters – so they get to decide what the model looks like. They’ll listen to landlords, we’ll make sure the market doesn’t collapse and we’ll keep that under review.

“But what we’ve got currently really isn’t working, and I think it’s that real pushback on rent controls. We know a lot of people in Government have vested interests, are landlords themselves, and they succumb to that pressure.”

She added: “The current mayor of London only supports rent controls because the Greens in City Hall have really pushed for him to see that they’re important and I don’t think he has been calling for them loudly.”

Like Garbett, Khan has previously called for a two-year freeze on private rents and the establishment of a ‘rent commission’ to explore how a longer-term system of rent controls could work.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said however that the party is opposed to rent controls nationally, suggesting in a recent interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he would not give Khan the power to introduce them in London.

The mayor told Byline Times earlier this month that he would continue lobbying for those powers, but that it was also “really important we’re realistic about what we can do”. He later said on LBC’s mayoral debate that he was willing to “stand up to” Sir Keir over the issue.

The Green Party’s co-leader, Carla Denyer, said: “The Greens have consistently come third in the last few London mayoral campaigns…

“Despite what some have been saying, it is not a two horse race here in London. There is a large gap between Sadiq and the Conservative candidate.

“So voters can feel free to vote for the Greens, vote with their values – and that will get a stronger Green voice [at City Hall].

“Whether it’s Zoe as mayor of London, or London Assembly members – that gives us a chance to really push those progressive values in the city which we know the majority of Londoners want.”

She added: “I’ve been incredibly impressed by Zoë’s campaign. I tuned into the BBC debate a few nights ago, and thought she absolutely knocked it out of the park – clearly the strongest candidate and really brings a breath of fresh air to the London mayoral campaign.”

Elsewhere across the country, Denyer said her party was particularly hopeful of making gains in Bristol, Stroud, Worcester and Hastings.

“We’ve already got over 10% of councils in England and Wales where Greens are on the administration, but think that could go up further,” she said.

The local elections, including the London mayoral election and assembly contests, will be held this Thursday (2nd May).

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