Mayor’s failing Rental Standard will take 103 years to hit target at current rate

New figures show that it will take him over one hundred years to hit the Mayor’s target of getting 100,000 of the capital’s landlords signed up to minimum standards. Despite promising to hit his target by May 2016, just 627 additional landlords have been accredited since Boris Johnson launched the scheme in late May last year, leaving many of the London’s  private renters with little protection from bad landlords.

 In 2012 Boris Johnson pledged to sign up 100,000 of London’s estimated 300,000 private landlords to a new London Rental Standard (LRS). The scheme, which was eventually launched in late May last year, sets minimum standards for landlords and provides a kite mark for the various voluntary landlord accreditation schemes in London.

Housing in London, UK

A few days after the LRS was launched last May the Mayor reported that there were 13,512 landlords already signed up to the various accreditation schemes. Yet according to the latest City Hall figures, only 627 additional landlords have signed up since then, despite an intensive publicity campaign. At this rate of progress it would take a further 103 years before Boris Johnson hits his target to sign up 100,000 landlords.

Boris Johnson is once again letting down Londoners when it comes to housing.

The latest figures from the Greater London Authority on the number of landlords accredited under the London Rental Standard can be found here.

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Londoners almost £3,000 a year worse off since 2010

More must be done to help Londoners on low and middle incomes after a new report found that people in the capital are almost £3,000 a year worse off in real terms than they were in 2010. The report, The High Cost of Low Wages, comes after the Mayor of London’s annual survey showed that that over 90% of Londoners think the cost of living has increased in the last year.

According to the report, wages in London have grown by just 3.5% since 2010, but the capital’s living costs have soared with the average cost of food, housing, travel, and fuel rising as much as 9.8 times faster than wages.

The cost of living rises mean that in real terms average weekly pay has dropped from £700 a week in 2010, to just £646 in 2014. This means Londoners are £2,802 a year worse off on average than they were five years ago.

Over the past five years the rocketing cost of living in the capital has left the average Londoner almost £3,000 a year worse off in real terms. With housing, travel and living costs rising far faster than wages it’s clear there is more to be done to help Londoners on low and middle incomes who are not feeling the economic recovery.

There is an urgent need for the Government to tackle rising living costs and bring about some much-needed respite for the many Londoners struggling to make ends meet.

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London must take lead role on climate change

Earlier this month I successfully put forward an amendment to a London Assembly motion calling on the Mayor of London to fully reflect the urgency of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report.

The IPCC is right: urgency is the name of the game. But the Mayor will not be able to accelerate action working in isolation.

My amendment noted the pioneering role that the Greater London Authority played in establishing the C40 Cities Group, with the aim of taking action at the city level to achieve measurable reductions in both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks. I think we need to take a pioneering role yet again.

We’re just entering a very short window of time when the world must really implement decarbonisation programmes to avoid dangerous levels of climate change. Cities are responsible for three-quarters of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. They are also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. And they are absolutely central to tackling it. London is no exception, but this Mayor is not doing enough.

Boris Johnson likes to say his goal is to make London the best big city in the world. But if it really is going to be, then it needs to be the best big city in the world on climate change.

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How can you build family housing at high density?

What do you call home? An apartment block with a strong sustainability score and good public transport links? Or a traditional English house, with a driveway and its own garden?

London’s population is expanding. The GLA’s Strategic Housing Market Assessment indicates that household growth will rise from almost 3.3 million in 2011 to just over 4.2 million by 2035 – an increase of 27 per cent. A third of the growth will be families – 279,000 new family homes will be needed in the next 20 years.

To accommodate that growth, one of the things we’ll need to do is build more densely – including for families.

How can we provide what families need in high-density developments? What can London learn from other cities around the world? And how do we avoid the design mistakes of the past – including the ‘formulaic’ housing estates of today?

The London Assembly’s Planning Committee (which I chair) will tomorrow hear from the following experts on how to design homes that meet family needs:

David Birkbeck, Chief Executive, Design for Homes

  • David Birkbeck, Chief Executive, Design for Homes
  • Martin Green, Head of Specialist Housing Services, London Borough of Southwark
  • Esther Kurland, Director, Urban Design London
  • Philipp Rode, Executive Director and Senior Research Fellow, London School of Economics Cities

The meeting takes place tomorrow, Wednesday 18 March from 2pm in Committee Room 5, City Hall. The meeting can also be viewed via webcast.

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Key medical staff can’t afford to live in London – and Boris needs to do something about it

I seconded a motion at this morning’s full meeting of the London Assembly calling on the Mayor to establish a key worker strategy and set out plans to better support nurses, paramedics and other key workers with the cost of living, so that they are able to enjoy a decent quality of life in London, and help safeguard the quality of key services.

I met with members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) who came to City Hall to express their support for the motion.

Nicky Gavron meets with members of the Royal College of Nursing who came to City Hall to support the motion, which Nicky seconded, calling for the Mayor to develop a strategy for key workers.

With members of the Royal College of Nursing who came to City Hall to support our motion calling for the Mayor to develop a strategy for key workers.

A report by the RCN last year showed that 14% of London NHS nursing posts are vacant, while the London Ambulance Service continues to lose workers at greater rates each year, including 238 last year.

It’s not just about recruitment – it’s about retention.

Many workers can’t stay in their roles because of the high cost of living, especially when it comes to housing.

We used to make sure that the people providing essential services could live in the areas they work. In the 2008 London Plan we had a key worker category for housing, but then Boris Johnson came along and abolished it in 2011. Instead of five years when we could have been building key worker housing, we’ve spent it hemorrhaging key workers.

These are the people who care for us, keep us safe, keep us alive. We need to make sure that they can live close to where they work. When they can’t afford London, we’re putting their livelihoods – and their lives – at risk.

This is why we need bring back a category for key worker housing.

I am proud that the motion was passed by the Assembly 15-4. The full text of the motion reads:

This Assembly welcomes the ongoing campaign by London health workers to secure fair NHS pay and regrets that Government has not respected the Independent Pay Review Body’s recommendation of a 1% pay rise in 2014 and 2015. The Assembly notes that the NHS is one of the largest employers in London.

The Assembly notes with concern the report by the Royal College of Nursing in December which showed that 14% of London NHS nursing posts are vacant, while the London Ambulance Service is recruiting over 100 paramedics from Australia and New Zealand to cover the gaps in its own workforce.

In a separate study 83% of RCN student members in London said the Government’s decision had made them worried they would not be able to afford to be a nurse in the city and the last CEO of the LAS stated that the ‘cost of living’ was a recruitment and retention problem for paramedics.

This Assembly therefore calls on the Mayor of London to:
Establish a key worker strategy and set out plans to better support nurses, paramedics and other key workers with the cost of living, so that they are able to enjoy a decent quality of life in London, and help safeguard the quality of key services.

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Alimatu Dimonekene at International Women’s Day

Alimatu Dimonekene

Last Friday I had the privilege to meet Alimatu Dimonekene at my colleague Jennette Arnold OBE AM’s International Women’s Day event at City Hall.

Alimatu, who works at the Manor Gardens Centre, is a powerful speaker who shared her personal story of female genital mutilation and her campaign to eliminate it. It was a difficult though inspiring story to hear, and I am glad she shared it.

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Assembly calls on Mayor to stop ignoring tall buildings issue

The London Assembly Planning Committee yesterday wrote to the Mayor calling on him to tackle the proliferation of tall buildings dramatically altering London and its skyline.

I’ve written before on this blog about the tall buildings issue, which has been the subject of heated debate since the NLA exhibition “London’s Growing Up!” last spring found that there are 236 more in the development pipeline. Despite the growing chorus of voices – from campaigners, from the London Assembly, and from citizens – calling on the Mayor to address the issue, he has steadfastly refused to even admit that there is a problem.

Helix

The letter from the Committee, which I chair, lays out the evidence from experts in the fields of engineering, architecture, and heritage about the impacts of this unmanaged phenomenon. We then call on the Mayor to:

  1. Establish a ‘skyline commission’ to advise on the design impact of tall buildings.
  2. Adopt more detailed and rigorous master planning in relation to tall buildings, especially within Opportunity Areas.
  3. Draw up a London Plan policy that formalises the ‘clusters’ policy for tall buildings.
  4. Undertake a review of existing protected views, with the intention of adding new viewing corridors.
  5. Support the development of a fully interactive 3D computer model of London’s emerging skyline.
  6. Adopt a requirement for all developers with proposals for tall buildings to consider other building configurations.

The evidence base presented to the Mayor will make it difficult for him to ignore. Our solutions are also proportional and realistic – recognising the contribution that tall buildings can make to the city, whilst being designed to prevent the worst excesses that do nothing more than act as safety deposit boxes for rich, often international, investors.

You can read the Letter to Mayor tall buildings here.

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