How’s this for a brazen piece of rebranding?
On 20 April, with his re-election looming, Boris Johnson pledged to deliver on Shelter’s campaign to create a ‘Homes for London’. Post-election, it has become crystal clear that Boris had no idea what measures he had signed up to.
During Wednesday’s Mayor’s Question Time he told me that the Homes for London he has created is simply the new name for The London Housing Board. He’s taken the name but none of the initiatives or policies.
He even told me he would have to “look at the detail of what is entailed by that pledge”.
This makes it hard to consider his pre-election support as anything other than cynical electioneering. Boris Johnson got good publicity off the back of his pledge and at the time of writing the Homes for London website still proudly proclaims:
“At the end of April we had a major win: Boris Johnson pledged to create Homes for London.”
Not that he noticed. On Wednesday he told me:
“I may have had a lot of publicity but not enough to come to my attention.”
But the biggest shame is not that Boris Johnson seems to have notched up the first broken promise of his second term, but that he is going to continue to fail millions of Londoners living in the private rented sector.
Rents rose 12 percent last year alone, complaints about rogue landlords and rip-off letting agents are increasing and the government’s welfare reforms will compound the pain.
Shelter’s Homes for London provided some solution to these. A mayoral London-wide Letting Agency with fairer rents and securer longer-term tenancies that work for families coupled with a drive to prosecute rogue landlords – these are not just good ideas, they are an essential minimum.
Boris Johnson should pay attention. To date, his record on the private rented sector is worse than poor.
His main ‘achievements’ being a voluntary landlord accreditation scheme with no qualifying criteria, a London Rents Map that tells Londoners where they cannot afford to live and a Housing Strategy with no policies to tackle rogue landlords and extortionate rent increases. His manifesto was equally threadbare, promising just more of the same.
A third of London households now live in this sector. Their living standards are being squeezed, people can’t get deposits together, poor environmental standards effect their health and children’s wellbeing and education is damaged by the constant churn.
The Mayor has the position, influence and power to tackle these problems. So far he has chosen not to. Let’s hope, once he studies the details, he will change his mind.