Sadiq Khan Tones Down Calls for Rent Controls in Capital after Keir Starmer Appears to Reject Plan

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/
Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/04/2024 - 6:51pm in

The London mayor has told Byline Times he has “not been able to persuade” Labour leader Keir Starmer of the need for private sector rent controls, despite growing pressure from Londoners to take firmer action on the housing crisis.

Since 2019, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been calling on ministers to grant him powers to freeze private rents in the capital. He may have hoped for a warmer reception from Sir Keir Starmer should the politicians win the mayoral and General elections respectively this year. But Labour HQ appears to have poured cold water on the idea. 

In his successful 2021 manifesto, Mayor Khan pledged he would “stand up for London's renters by leading the campaign for rent controls for our city, to make renting more affordable and secure for the millions of Londoners who rent their home from a private landlord.” 

He later renewed those calls but in his recent announcement on a ‘new deal for renters’, there was no mention of rent controls – perhaps anticipating that Sir Keir Starmer would not allow it were they both elected this year. 

Sadiq Khan’s calls for private sector rent controls appears to have been replaced with a pledge to set up a London Rent Commission, which would explore the issue and involve landlords and renters, and a commitment to build his own rent-controlled homes.  

But previously unreleased polling for Byline Times, conducted by WeThink at the end of March, found that 70% of UK voters backed “a maximum rent on properties” – including 71% of Conservative voters and 75% of Labour voters. Similar polling for the Green Party found that nearly 70% of Londoners back private rent controls. 

A spokesperson for the London Renters Union criticised Mayor Khan’s apparent shift earlier this month, saying: “Sadiq Khan’s New Deal will fall flat if he does not continue to push for the power to cap rents in London. London renters are trapped in a cycle of instability and many will feel let down if Khan stops campaigning for city-wide rent controls under a Labour government.

“6,000 new rent controlled properties will not bring security to the capital’s 3 million private renters who are living in fear that they will be forced out of their homes by an unaffordable rent increase.”

In an interview with the Evening Standard last month, Sir Keir said rent controls were “not our national policy.” 

“I can assure you that Sadiq and I work very closely together. Sadiq feels strongly about this. But look, we will work together as we go forward,” he added. Last June, shadow housing minister Lisa Nandy also claimed rent controls would contribute to homelessness by causing landlords to withdraw their properties from the rental market.

These statements have perhaps contributed to Mayor Khan saying he would not "make promises that won’t materialise after the election" on rent controls. "It's really important we're realistic about what we can do,” the London leader told Byline Times. 

He has instead pledged to build “at least 6,000 rent control homes” in London if he’s re-elected for a record third term on May 2, noting: “I can do that with the powers I have.” London is home to approximately 2.7 million private renters, according to GLA figures, a number which has risen considerably since the 1990s, and which would be out of the limited rent capped homes Mayor Khan hopes to build.  

“When it comes to building 40,000 council homes, I can do it with the budget I have. With a Labour government, I can [build] far more council homes, far more rent control homes.”

Mayor Khan added that his call for a London-wide licensing scheme to rein in rogue landlords would “probably need a change of Government” to enable it through legislation. 

Speaking at an event launching his pledge to abolish rough sleeping by 2030 – if Labour are elected UK-wide too – he added: “So far I've not been able to persuade either of the main parties to devolve [rent control powers] to London. But it's still a long way between now and the general election. 

“Should I have the privilege of being reelected, I'm gonna carry on lobbying both the Tory party and the Labour Party to at the very least, devolve to cities and regions the choice about doing so. [And] at the very least allow us to set up this rent commission.”

The Labour Mayor also softened his tone on the policy, saying he “understand[s] the arguments on both sides – those landlords and developers who say if you did this, we'll just simply withdraw from the property market. And that's why we're going to have a commission that includes landlords, that includes developers as well as your tenants and renters as well.”

City Hall and the Labour leader’s office appear to have mended their public feuds after Keir Starmer refused to publicly back Mayor Khan’s expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone in London last year. And the issue of securing more powers for London is likely to be high up Khan’s agenda with a Labour Government in Westminster. 

More powers are perhaps more likely than more cash from the Treasury given Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves’ commitment to strict ‘fiscal rules’ that could mirror Conservative spending plans. 

Asked by Byline Times if he was concerned that the austerity he has criticised under the Conservatives might continue under a Keir Starmer-led Labour government, Khan said: “I lived through only through the last Labour government, and Tony and Gordon stayed within the spending limits Ken Clark set out for two years back between 1997 and 1999.  

“Notwithstanding that, we saw a massive investment in public services but also massive growth in our economy at the same time. So I'm confident that Keir and Rachel are as good as Tony and Gordon, in understanding the importance of getting the economic policies right but also understanding the importance of addressing social injustice that demand investment.”

Like Keir Starmer he echoed the claim that higher economic growth will mean Labour could spend more without raising taxes. “Good growth will benefit the NHS, will benefit our schools, our public services. Without growth we don't get the money that we need,” Khan said.

“This is a moment of maximum opportunity. A Labour Mayor and a Labour Government can be transformative, notwithstanding the inheritance they're going to have, which will be the worst since the Second World War,” he added.

And the Labour Mayor added that it “wouldn't” concern him if Rachel Reeves signed up to Conservative party spending plans for several years after their likely election.

“No, it wouldn’t. Here's why: because that would be a temporary measure. Don't forget Keir has made it quite clear you need two terms, the Labour party needs two terms to fix the mess of the last 14 years. But also the country will know, those who want to invest in our country will know, chief executives will know – we need the stability and certainty we've not had…for the last 14 years,” the Labour candidate said. 

Khan has accused the Conservatives of being ‘in the pockets of the landlord lobby’. He has claimed the mayoral election on 2 May is a two-horse race between him and “the Conservative candidate for Mayor [Susan Hall AM] who has been virtually silent on renters’ issues and cheered Liz Truss’ mini-budget, which sent rents through the roof.”

Do you have a story that needs highlighting? Get in touch by emailing