Ken Livingstone today opened a new front in the London Mayoral campaign, attacking Boris Johnson for failing Londoners on the issue of housing and pledging to take action on housing, “to try to reduce the effects of the economic crisis and Tory policy on the living standards of ordinary Londoners” as he has done with his fare deal campaign.
As the Tories will be only too aware, Ken’s new pledge will appeal to a huge swathe of London’s electorate, particularly young professionals, who cannot afford to buy a home and will never get into social rented accommodation.
Stating that, “The market has completely failed to provide the investment in new homes, especially affordable homes”, Ken criticised not only the failure to build more affordable homes, but the increasing unaffordability of private renting. In more than half of London boroughs Londoners are paying on average over 50 per cent of their incomes on rent.
Making two specific pledges at an IPPR London Policy Conference, he said he would lead a London Living Rent campaign which “will be a new way of making City Hall work for ordinary Londoners … by learning from the success of the London Living Wage in arguing, cajoling, intervening and collaborating.” And secondly, he would intervene into the private housing market, arguing “what London needs is a London-wide non-profit lettings agency” which he pledged to establish.
The Tory response has been weak so far – they seem caught out by the proposal. Boris Johnson’s campaign has responded saying rent controls are “counter-productive” and blogger Harry Cole has said a Living Rent would be “unenforceable”.
But they must be fully aware that the London Living Rent campaign threatens to tap into a section of Johnson’s supporters from the 2008 election, particularly young working people who bought into his ‘buffoon’ image and did not see him as the forerunner of Cameron’s cuts, but who do struggle with the cost of private renting.
Following on from the successful launch of the Fare Deal campaign on transport fares, the London Living Rent campaign will cement Ken Livingstone’s message that he is the candidate seeking to reduce the effects of Tory austerity policies and their interest in only defending the wealthiest in society.