The two key topics for this meeting of the NextGen Sounding Board were housing and the priorities for Sadiq Khan in this term.
The board reviewed the three main areas within this topic, renting, the new First Homes scheme and Londoners facing eviction notices now that the ban on bailiff evictions has come to an end.
As young professionals, there was a resounding opinion from our shared experiences, that there needs to be better obligations put onto landlords. Tenancy agreements do not currently protect renters and there should be better quality spaces to rent. There was also a general thought on how we change mindsets around renting. Western systems place so much onus on home owning so how do we make renting more attractive? There needs to be a systemic change moving away from landlords having a passive income, they need to be more involved, and there should be better rent controls that are more ethically driven ensuring safer, affordable, and quality living spaces.
Meanwhile, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) report that 400,000 renters in the UK have been served or could be served eviction notices, now that the ban on bailiff enforced evictions has come to an end. A Shelter survey shows 22 per cent of renters fear losing their home at short notice.
The pandemic is an opportunity for reforms and changes to legislation, the Board questions why there is no emergency financial assistance once the ban comes to an end and are there institutions joining up to help? It is a staggering number of people facing eviction and there will be a lot of people not eligible for social housing, what happens next? There is an opportunity here for the government to look at long term solutions that works for people in this bracket.
Amid all this, the Government has just announced more details about First Homes.
The Board have concerns about what this means for London, fearing this initiative is more of a gimmick than solution. The trial currently sits in an area with very little job opportunities, schemes must be placed where young people want to live. Further to this, there needs to be more clarity on the breakdown of costs and it’s affordability, looking at similar schemes where there are limited mortgages, high service charges and increased interest rates, what is the viability of key workers actually being able to afford this scheme?
There has been an issue of supply and demand for many years now. The Board suggests there is supply but not of the right tenures and asks, is there a solution for making the most of what we do have?
On a broader level, home ownership is more about accumulation and wealth generation and to change that we need a whole new system to support other ways to gain wealth, for example, the current pensions for this generation are not good enough. Not one member of the Board feels positively about their opportunities for buying their own home in London.
The second topic discussed was the new Mayoralty and the letter signed by the NLA to the new Mayor. The Board thought the topics were all interconnected and implementation requires a joined up approach.
The Board raised some key issues, for example, they felt that tackling climate change and sustainability is key in delivering a net zero carbon city, however, fuel poverty is currently not reviewed in legislation – lots more needs to be done to meet net zero targets. A topic that has previously been discussed by the Board, is the Government planning reforms and the Board questions whether the government is giving local authorities enough power to deliver? Another point that affects all of the asks is that there will be a material and labour shortage coming up post pandemic – how can we bring more people into the industry?
The Board felt that further actions should be set out on how we deliver on the ambitions set out in the letter, setting out mid to long term approaches. The Board calls for a new London plan with a future vision and long term view decoupled from political times and only when the sectors are properly resourced, a positive change can happen.