Darren Rodwell

Conference call to action: We are the housing system so let’s change it!

Cllr Darren Rodwell, Leader, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham; Deputy Chair, Housing and Planning, London Council 

On behalf of local housing authorities across London, Cllr Darren Rodwell called on public and private sector organisations to work together. He argues that the public sector must receive a return on its investment that ensures our complex housing system works better everyone, particularly those on low incomes.

We need to build more, and we need to work with the private sector market. 

That is not the private rented sector’s fault, but it is part of the problem. It’s part of the problem because there has not been any real regulation over that period. So we have seen rents spiral out of control for many Londoners. We have seen homes that are not fit for purpose. 

It is totally wrong that we are spending around £20 billion on rents, most of that going to the private sector, and only £8 billion on building the homes people genuinely need. 

So I want a mechanism that allows good rental property businesses to flourish and the public to have a return on their investment. Together we must come up with a scheme that respects communities whilst at the same time allowing the market to develop. We do need a whole system approach. 

The crisis we’re in 

Otherwise, we will carry on in crisis because that is where we are. The last time we had this type of housing crisis was the war. 

I’ve spoken before about the right to rent. There should be no stigma to renting, and then there should be the right to invest and the right to move. 

Londoners of my background can’t afford to buy any more. As the leader of the council, it is 12 times my salary for me to buy a council property. Think about that in the housing crisis. 

So we need to change. We need an ability for people to rent from whatever sector and at the same time be in a place where if they want to invest, they can.  

Housing bonds 

I would like to see a housing bond, so someone can have a pot of money index-linked to a property, but not in the traditional sense. 

If that pot of money isn’t enough, they can rent the rest. That would also work for the private rented sector because there would be no stigma attached to renting anymore. That’s important for dignity and for the London economy. 

Local government has always been in housing for the last hundred years or so in the golden age of housing. Now local government is going back into housing. 

But we need a joint programme with the private sector where there can be a public investment and public payback. 

Without that, there will be more homeless people, more people in temporary accommodation, with more people unable to make this great city their home. I truly believe we can come up with the answers together so we can serve the communities we want to see in London in the future.