Sadiq Khan poses for the cameras. Photo:Getty Images
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Why Sadiq Khan is the candidate with the best offer for renters

A fair deal for London's renters should be the first priority for London's next Mayor. For my money, Sadiq Khan is the man with the plan.

 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with housing, and with good reason. A generation of politicians have failed to tackle the problems in London’s housing market. So I’m delighted to see two of the front runners in our mayoral race have unveiled their housing agendas in today’s Evening Standard.

No group has been let down by a generation of political failure on housing more than private tenants. With a strong focus on London's two million private tenants, Sadiq Khan has set out a comprehensive plan to make renters' lives better. As someone who has spent my career campaigning on housing issues, today was the day that Sadiq won my vote. 

By 2027, more Londoners will rent from a private landlord than own their own home. The average private tenant pays just under half their income in rent, and that figure is rising fast. But paying more rent doesn't mean living in a nicer flat or getting a better service - forty per cent of Londoners experienced problems with damp last year, and a third of say they cannot trust their letting agent. 

Sadiq has a comprehensive plan to reduce the cost of renting, improve the condition of rented homes and give more stability to renters. It consists of four crucial points:

1. To introduce a ‘London Living Rent’ option for new affordable housing. This will be a below-market rent, based on the principle that rents should be around one-third of renters’ incomes and not half. This will provide a genuinely 'affordable' option, filling the gap between the new social housing we need to build and homes for private sale or rent. By keeping rents down, tenants will be able to afford their rents while saving for a deposit if they want to. 

2. Sadiq will establish a London-wide not-for-profit letting agency, building on the work of Labour councils like Hackney and Islington in a federal structure. This agency will provide good landlords and tenants with a responsible and reliable alternative to private lettings agencies, while promoting longer-term tenancies and stable rents.

3. The Mayor's office will crack down on rogue landlords and publish a regular list of the best and worst landlords in the capital. Sadiq’s plan proposes cross-borough action against the worst offenders and encouraging local authorities to set up licensing schemes, like Newham has done.

4. Sadiq will campaign with Londoners for the power to freeze rents and for new rules to ensure that if necessary repairs are not started by  landlords within a reasonable time period, tenants will be able to carry them out and deduct the cost from the rent. A rent freeze over the last four years would have saved the average London renter £5,615 that could have been saved towards a deposit.

As a package this plan will make an immense difference to the lives of London's two million private renters. Over the coming weeks Sadiq will be announcing further important measures to tackle London's housing crisis. I can think of no more important thing for the next Mayor of London to do and that is why I will be campaigning for Sadiq Khan to be Labour's candidate next May.

Tom Copley is a Labour member of the London Assembly

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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