Put London's housing first, put Emily first

London’s housing is in crisis – and the new Conservative Government looks set to make it worse. From high rents to bad landlords, from lack of decent housing to multiple problems for leaseholders, it’s not surprising Londoners see housing as their top issue.

As a housing solicitor and campaigner working on the frontline for 20 years, I believe I have the experience and expertise to lead Lib Dem Housing Campaigns across London if elected to the GLA. It's great Tim Farron has made housing such a key issue for his leadership: London Lib Dems need to get behind his push. So if you want housing to be our number one London issue, please make me your number one preference!

Boris Johnson, as London’s Mayor, has had strategic responsibility for London’s housing, but chosen to do very little whilst backing policies like extending the right to buy that will cost hundreds of millions yet see no new homes built.

As a London Assembly Member, campaigning on housing with Liberal Democrats across every Borough would be my top priority. My key early focus would be campaigning to help Londoners use existing laws to force councils and private landlords to give thousands a much better deal.

But my strategic aim would be to force the Mayor both to oversee a home-building boom and to champion the huge number of tenants and leaseholders who are being ripped off in the capital.

BUILD MORE HOMES PEOPLE CAN GENUINELY AFFORD

Building more homes is always controversial for someone, but the Mayor needs to intervene more to enable the easier options to be seized.

First, the Mayor could and should use strategic planning powers to force an increase in the number of genuinely affordable properties developers provide.

Second, the Mayor needs to establish a register of all public sector land in the capital, and draw up plans for new housing developments on all appropriate sites in the register.

Third, the Mayor should campaign for a programme of Garden Cities across the South East.  We have more homes built by Councils and Housing Association for social rent and private ownership breaking the cartel of the house building companies, increasing our housing stock and providing much needed job and training to young people in London.

STOP MILLIONS BEING DIVERTED FROM NEW BUILD INTO THE RIGHT TO BUY

A major home-building programme will need some extra public funding. Yet the Right to Buy in London is already a huge cost to the taxpayer, without the replacement homes being built.

New Tory plans to force housing associations to sell their properties at discounts of up to £103,000 could lead to a crash in the social housing sector. See Cameron is in danger of being like Mugabe on property to find out more. 

TAKE ACTION ON EMPTY HOMES

An early boost to tackling London’s housing crisis could come from an aggressive approach to using London’s 20,795 empty homes – especially given nearly 50% are in the social sector.

A combination of lack of political will, knowledge and skills within local authorities and some housing associations means progress on re-using these properties is far too slow.  See Let’s get radical with empty homes to find out more. 

DRIVE UP STANDARDS IN THE PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR

Local Authorities already have powers to tackle rogue landlords but mostly they chose not to use them.  The Mayor should be holding them to account shaming them into taking action. The Mayor could introduce annual London Landlord awards where tenants could nominate good landlords. See Driving up standards in the private rented sector.

LEASEHOLDERS AND SERVICE CHARGE

Leaseholders have to pay service charge and all too often this includes very high management charges.  The Mayor could extend his London rental standard to leaseholders with management companies, for a new London Leaseholder standard.  This could set a gold standard in the sector.  Leaseholders could opt for them when the leaseholders purchase the freehold or ask their freeholders to switch to them.