Garden Bridge’s escalating costs ‘galling’ – Tom Copley AM

February 13th, 2019

Ban on unfair letting fees not enough to protect London’s renters

February 12th, 2019

London needs more pet friendly properties

February 7th, 2019

Councils fork out “eye-watering” £22 million a year renting back Right to Buy homes

January 21st, 2019

January 2019 report to Londoners

January 18th, 2019

Shelter report makes strong case for historic renewal of social housing in capital

January 8th, 2019

Garden Bridge’s escalating costs ‘galling’ – Tom Copley AM

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Responding to Transport for London’s publication of the detailed final cost of the Garden Bridge project, Labour London Assembly Member, Tom Copley AM, said:

“It’s galling to see the costs of Boris’ botched Bridge continuing to escalate for London’s taxpayers. David Cameron needs to answer why, in his eagerness to see Boris Johnson’s scheme go through, he intervened to overrule the advice of senior civil servants in order to extend the underwriting for the Bridge.

“There’s a deep sense of unfairness about this whole ordeal – we have a QC stating that the Garden Bridge trustees may have breached their legal duties, which begs the question of whether morally, if not legally, the bill should land at their feet and not taxpayers’.

“While this is government money, our London Assembly investigation into TfL’s role in this project is very much ongoing. We’ll be asking why TfL officials failed to veto additional funds when it was so plainly obvious that the Garden Bridge was flailing.”

Ends

Notes

  • Tom Copley is a Londonwide Assembly Member.

Ban on unfair letting fees not enough to protect London’s renters

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

In response to the Government’s announcement today that the Tenant Fees Bill has gained Royal Assent and will come into effect on 1st June 2019, Labour’s London Assembly Housing Spokesperson, Tom Copley AM, said:

“For too long, Londoners in the private rented sector have been subject to exorbitant letting fees and deposits, with excessive rents adding insult to injury.

“Whilst it is very welcome that with this new Act of Parliament, we will see protections for tenants from these fees and a cap on deposits at five weeks’ rent, there is still a four-month waiting period for the new laws to come in force.

“By implication, we are now in danger of unscrupulous agents and landlords using this period of delay to charge even higher fees than usual. The Government has already dragged their feet on this, despite the Chancellor promising in his Autumn Statement back in 2016 that letting fees will be banned as soon as possible.

“Private renters deserve much more from the Government. As a matter of urgency, Section 21 no fault evictions must be scrapped and open-ended tenancies introduced, with caps on rent rises. I welcome the work Sadiq Khan has announced to develop a model of rent control that will work in London. The Government should devolve to City Hall the necessary powers for him to implement this.”

Ends

Notes

  • Tom Copley AM is a Londonwide Assembly Member.

London needs more pet friendly properties

Thursday, February 7th, 2019

Owning a pet can decrease stress, improve mood and boost opportunities to socialise.

But many Londoners are unable to own a pet because of housing restrictions.

Today, the London Assembly called on the Mayor to work with Councils and Housing Associations to introduce more flexible housing policies.

Steve O’Connell AM, who proposed the motion said:

“Having a pet can have such a positive impact on an individual’s quality of life and wellbeing. Pet owners make 15 per cent fewer visits to a doctor and are 60 per cent more likely than non–pet owners to get to know people in their neighbourhoods.

“Sadly, many social housing tenants are prohibited from keeping a pet, meaning that they miss out on so many of the associated benefits.

“We want the Mayor to use his considerable influence to persuade councils and housing associations to bring in more flexible policies which allow a greater number of tenants to keep a pet.”

Tom Copley AM, who seconded the motion, said:

“I really welcome Battersea’s new report on pet friendly properties. This is an issue that I feel personally very strongly about: I’m a private tenant and I’m not allowed pets.

“Ten per cent of people giving up their dogs do so because landlords don’t allow pets. I can’t imagine how distressing and heart-breaking it must be to have to give up your pets because your landlord won’t allow you to keep them.

“Pets bring us great joy and have an extremely positive effect on mental health. It is estimated that pet ownership saves the NHS £2.5 billion a year.

“This is a particular issue for London. Half of Londoners rent either from the council, housing association or private landlord. This is forecast to rise to 60 per cent by 2025.”

The full text of the motion is:

“This Assembly recognises and congratulates Battersea Dogs & Cats Home for their tireless work to improve the lives of dogs and cats across London, including their most recent report and campaign Pet Friendly Properties.

“Further to the contents of this report, we call on the Mayor to work with Councils and Housing Associations across London to implement more flexible housing policies, allowing more residents to keep dogs and cats in the Capital.

“Where it would improve confidence and enhance animal welfare, social landlords should enlist the help of a recognised animal welfare organisation, like Battersea, to help improve policies and provide training and advice to owners.”

Ends

Councils fork out “eye-watering” £22 million a year renting back Right to Buy homes

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Councils in London are spending over £22 million each year renting back homes sold under the Right to Buy, according to a new report. Right to Buy: Wrong for London, from Labour’s London Assembly Housing Spokesperson, Tom Copley AM, also identifies that the number of Right to Buy homes now in London’s private rented sector has hit at least 54,000. Mr Copley said that at a time when the need for homes at social rent level far outweighs the numbers being built, it was “reckless” of the Government to continue with the Right to Buy. He said it was failing London and called for its abolition.

Responses to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted by Mr Copley to all London councils, found that the number of Right to Buy homes now in the private rented sector has risen by at least 11,825 in the last five years to approximately 54,000. These figures are considered conservative, as some local councils did not provide data. 42% of homes sold through Right to Buy in London are now being rented out by private landlords at market rates (up from 36% in 2014).

The capital needs 30,972 new low-cost rented homes every year, according to the 2017 London Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA). With demand outstripping supply – just 7,905 low-cost rented homes have been built in the last five years – councils are being forced to rent back properties formerly sold under the Right to Buy to use as temporary accommodation to meet the needs of homeless families. Mr Copley’s report found that at least 2,333 Right to Buy homes are now being rented by local authorities, with Newham alone renting back 808 of these at a cost of £12.9 million per year. The total yearly cost to councils renting back these properties is at least £22,345,760. Westminster Council are renting back 650 former council homes, but couldn’t provide a figure for the annual cost of this. Based on the average cost of renting back council homes across London this could be in excess of £8 million a year.

In 2012 the Government decided to ‘reinvigorate’ Right to Buy, increasing the discount on council homes to £75,000 across England. The following year the discount was increased to £100,000 in London. The Government promised one-for-one replacement, within three years, on any additional homes sold due to the increased discount. By March 2018 the Government were falling behind on this pledge. Nationally, since 2012, 17,072 additional replacements were required, but the number of homes started or acquired was below 16,000.

The Mayor of London has pledged to start 11,000 new council and Right to Buy replacement homes by 2022. He has also introduced a new ‘ring-fence offer’ for London councils to protect their Right to Buy receipts. But in order to meet need, some councils are buying back homes they had previously sold under the Right to Buy. Ealing Council, for example, has bought back 516 former council properties. Whilst more than half of these were for regeneration projects, Ealing found themselves spending £107,071,333 buying these back – more than six times the £16,230,470 they received through the original sales of these homes, which were discounted by a total of £15,648,455 under the Right to Buy.

Labour’s London Assembly Housing Spokesperson, Tom Copley AM, said:

“Something has gone very wrong when tens of thousands of homes built to be let at social rents for the public good are now being rented out at market rates for private profit, sometimes back to the very councils that were forced to sell them.

“The Right to Buy is failing London and should be abolished. Home ownership is still important for many people, but it can’t come at any cost, particularly if it means families struggling to put a roof over their heads or living in poor conditions. It’s not right that cash-strapped councils are having to fork-out eye-watering amounts renting back properties they were forced to sell at a discount.

“Many councils are building new council homes again for the first time in a generation. But we risk treading water or even going backwards if we continue to lose precious existing homes to Right to Buy.

“At a time when the need for homes at social rent level far outweighs the numbers being built, it’s reckless to continue to force the discounted sale of council homes.

“At the very least, we want to see the Government exempting newly built council homes from the Right to Buy and legislating to prevent Right to Buy homes being let on the private market. But with councils fearing their investment in social housing could be wasted, and the Right to Buy adding to London’s housing crisis, abolition is the best way to protect the capital’s social housing stock.”

Ends

Notes

  • The Right to Buy is a policy introduced in 1980 through which council tenants can buy their home at a discount, which increases with the length of time they have lived there. This can be a maximum of 70% off the value of the home, and the discount is capped in London at £108,000. The Right to Buy has been abolished in Scotland and Wales;
  • A copy of Tom Copley AM’s report, Right to Buy: Wrong for London, can be found here;
  • The data in Mr Copley’s report was gathered from a series of Freedom of Information requests to the 33 London local authorities in August 2018;
  • Authorities were asked:
    • How many residential properties they hold the freehold of;
    • How many they hold the freehold of, but not the leasehold (this gives an indication of how many Right to Buy properties there are in a borough);
    • How many of the above have a leaseholder with a different correspondence address to the property (which indicates that the owner is not a resident of the property.)
  • Key findings from the FOIs include:
    • Councils are renting back 2,333 former council homes, previously sold under Right to Buy;
    • The total yearly cost of this for London councils is at least £22,345,760;
    • Newham are renting back 808 of these at a cost of £12.9 million per year;
    • Westminster were able to estimate they rent back 650 homes they sold through the Right to Buy to use now as temporary accommodation, but were not able to say how much this costs them. Based on the figures provided by other boroughs, the average cost of this is £13,277 per home per year, giving an estimated annual cost to Westminster of £8.63 million;
    • The number of Right to Buy properties now in London’s private rented sector (PRS) is 54,000;
    • This is has risen by at least 11,825 since 2014;
    • This now represents 42% of former council homes in London in the PRS;
    • Ealing Council bought back 516 former council properties sold under the Right to Buy. The council received £16,230,470 for the original sales, after they were discounted by £15,648,455 under the Right to Buy. They spent £107,071,333 buying these back.
  • All 33 boroughs (including the City of London) were sent the same requests. Mr Copley did not receive full responses from all 33;
  • At least 10 boroughs did not give Mr Copley the responses required to estimate the full extent of Right to Buy properties now in the private rented sector, while the numbers provided may be an underestimate, as in some cases the local authority may have sold the freehold as well, and they may not have tracked the future ownership and tenure status of a property after the initial sale;
  • According to the 2017 London Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA), the capital needs 30,972 new low-cost rented homes every year to meet demand (47% of all new homes required). If this is taken to mean social rent levels or the Mayor’s new London Affordable Rent definition – in line with the new draft London Plan – the annual requirement for low-cost rented homes is several times greater than the total number of such homes that have been built in the past five years (7,905);
  • In 2012 the Government decided to reinvigorate Right to Buy, increasing the discount on council homes to £75,000 across England;
  • In 2013, the maximum Right to Buy discount was increased from £16,000 to £100,000 in London, and has risen with inflation each year to £108,000 in 2018-19;
  • After reinvigorating the Right to Buy in 2012, the Government promised one-for-one (but not like-for-like) replacement on any additional homes sold as a result of the increased discount;
  • By March 2018 the Government had fallen behind on its promise of one-for-one replacement. Nationally, since 2012, 17,072 additional replacements were required, but the number of homes stated or acquired was below 16,000;
  • The Mayor of London has pledged to start 11,000 new council and Right to Buy replacement homes by 2022;
  • Further information about the Mayor’s new ‘ring-fence offer’ can be found here;
  • Tom Copley is a Londonwide Assembly Member

January 2019 report to Londoners

Friday, January 18th, 2019

Here is my latest report back about my work at City Hall and around London. If you’d like me to speak at a local Labour Party meeting, or if you’d like a tour of City Hall, please email me.

42% of council homes sold under Right to Buy in London now rented out by private landlords

New research I’ve published reveals that 42% of homes sold off under Right to Buy in London are now being rented out by private landlords at market rates – up from 36% in 2014.

That’s at least 11,000 more council homes in the hands of private landlords than there were five years ago, a shocking transfer of wealth from the many to the few.

My report also reveals that councils in London are spending at least £22 million a year renting back their former council homes to house homeless families. These were homes they were forced to sell at a discount that they now have to pay market rates to rent back.

This is ludicrous, and the blame lies squarely with national government policies.

Many Labour councils across London are building new council homes again for the first time in a generation. But we risk treading water or even going backwards if we continue to lose precious existing homes to Right to Buy.

That’s why I’m asking you to take action by signing this petition demanding that Theresa May ends Right to Buy in London and across England. The Scottish and Welsh governments have already done so.

You can read my report here.

 

New London Assembly Working Group to continue investigating Boris Johnson’s failed Garden Bridge project

I’ve been appointed to chair a new London Assembly working group which will continue our investigation into Boris Johnson’s failed Garden Bridge project, which has cost the taxpayer up to £46 million. In early 2018 I secured the release of the Garden Bridge Trust’s (GBT) board minutes, which have shed crucial light on how the trustees pushed forward the project in the face of escalating risks. We will now be investigating the role of the Charity Commission as regulator, as well as the TfL officers who attended GBT board meetings.

The GBT recently demanded an additional £5 million to pay for winding up costs. I have written to Transport Commissioner Mike Brown asking him to explore every legal avenue to withhold this payment. If you agree that no more public money should be spent on this vanity project then please sign the petition here.

 

Tell the government to reverse their cuts to sexual health services in London

Cuts to sexual health budgets are hitting clinics just as demand for testing is rising. In December the London Assembly unanimously called on the Mayor of London to work with boroughs to support sexual health services in London. But we need the government to reverse their damaging £600 million cuts to public health budgets, with another £85 million cuts planned. Please show how your support for reversing these cuts by signing my petition.

 

Do you know your rights as a renter?

Last year the government consulted on longer tenancies for private tenants. In my response I called for open-ended tenancies, an end to no fault eviction and caps on rent rises. You can read my response here.

More than a quarter of Londoners now rent from private landlords, but do you know what your rights as a tenant are? Take the quiz to find out.

 

We need to tax land

It was a pleasure to talk to Tom Burgess for the Real Agenda podcast about one of my favourite subjects: Land Value Tax (LVT). LVT is the fairest and most efficient way of raising tax, and at the same time discourages developers from land banking or keeping homes empty. We talk a lot about rates of income tax in the Labour Party, but if we really want to redistribute wealth we need to tax land. Land values in the UK have risen by 544% since 1995. We should be capturing some of that rise to fund infrastructure and housing. In 2016 I led an investigation for the London Assembly looking at LVT. My report recommended that the Mayor should be given the power to trial it in London.

You can listen to my conversation with Tom here.

 

Short-term lets: an international approach

Concern about the abuse of short-term lettings platforms such as Airbnb by people turning homes into hotels by the back door has been growing internationally. Last year I published a report “Morebnb: short-term lets in London’s housing crisis” which examined the issue in London and made a number of recommendations, including data sharing between short-term lettings platforms and local authorities. In November I spoke about the impact of short-term lettings platforms on London at an international conference in New York which is looking at ways to better regulate the sector (though via Skype, not in person, sadly!)

 

Brexit: The London Assembly endorses a People’s Vote

This month the London Assembly reiterated its support for a People’s Vote, or final say, on the terms of Brexit.

I believe that the British people have a right to change their mind about whether we leave with a deal or remain in the European Union, particularly in light of the total mess the Government has made of handling Brexit. It’s my firm view that the best deal is the one we have now: membership of the EU.

 

Shelter report makes strong case for historic renewal of social housing in capital

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

In response to today’s publication of Shelter’s report, ‘A Vision for Social Housing’, Labour’s London Assembly Housing Spokesperson, Tom Copley AM, said:

“For this Government, social housing has sadly been an afterthought. In London, we’ve seen the impact of this with fewer than 8,000 social homes having been built over the last five years in total.

“With more and more people being forced into the all too often precarious conditions of the private rented sector, it is clear that we need to see a historic renewal in social housing to provide safe, secure and affordable homes to Londoners.

“In our capital, we are witnessing the burning injustice of thousands sleeping rough on the streets and trapped in temporary accommodation, alongside a rise in the hidden homeless population.

“Shelter’s plan for social housing sets a benchmark for the level of ambition that we need to turn this dire situation around. The Government must now pull its weight, and work with the Mayor by putting the funding in place to secure the 30,000 new social homes that London needs each year.

“But it’s no good building new social housing only to lose precious existing council homes to Right to Buy. The Government must end this policy, which has resulted in the loss of 287,303 social rented homes in London in the past 40 years.”

Ends 

Notes

  • The 2017 London Strategic Housing Market Assessment, carried out by the Greater London Authority, identifies the need for 30,972 social rented homes to be built each year in London;
  • Data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government shows that between 2013/14 and 2017/18, 7,905 new homes for social rent were built in London;
  • Data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government reveals that the Right to Buy policy has resulted in the loss of 287,303 social rented homes in London in the past 40 years;
  • Tom Copley AM is a Londonwide Assembly Member

Vast swathes of London are becoming unaffordable even to those on “good” incomes

April 2nd, 2014

We need to turn the landlord’s house into the tenant’s home

March 19th, 2014

We need Homes for London

February 3rd, 2014