An independent mayoral candidate has pledged to lower the capital’s rents while giving Londoners a greater say in City Hall’s policies.
Islington resident Serge Crowbolder believes the state of London’s rental market is the single-biggest issue facing its citizens, saying: “Our beautiful city is in danger of becoming a golden cage.”
The 40-year-old candidate, who lives in social housing, says that if he wins the London mayoral election on May 2, he would use his mandate from voters to lobby the Government to introduce a system of “better rents” across the rental sector.
“When I say better rents, I mean lower rents, essentially,” he said. “I don’t think a rent freeze is enough… But in order to make better rents a reality for Londoners, what we need is two things. [Firstly] the political will – it needs to be a really strong mandate [from London’s voters]…
“The other side of it though is, ultimately, you need to get the banks on side – because in order for this to be a reality, we need to be able to match the buy-to-let mortgage repayments with what the maximum rent would be [for a property].”
Asked what the new system would look like, he said: “Holland has quite a good system, which is almost like a points system. To be honest, the system that we had in the UK until 1988, when it was repealed by Margaret Thatcher – I think that was a pretty good system as well.”
Prior to the 1988 Housing Act, the UK had a system of rent controls, where regulated tenancies had ‘fair rents’ set by independent rent officers.
Mr Crowbolder, who is currently a night delivery-man for a bakery, also argues that there is a need for City Hall to become more accountable to Londoners – by using a ‘digital democracy’ platform. The online system would enable Londoners to vote on whether they agreed with decisions being proposed at City Hall during a mayoral term, rather than only voting once every four years.
“It’s going to technically have to be advisory,” the candidate said. “But if you’re standing up there as mayor, and saying ‘I’m here to represent the people of London’, it’s kind of incumbent upon you to listen to those people and I don’t think it’s politically viable not to.”
Mr Crowbolder, who was born in the Netherlands but raised in London, has also said he would look to provide every home with a solar power connection and a small heat pump.
“That’s something that I would want entirely paid for by the private sector,” he said. “There’s a lot of billionaires and other people who say the environment is very important to them, so let’s see if they can put their money where their mouth is.”
He added: “I would like to see having a solar and heat pump hook-up as like standard plumbing. Obviously what’s provided would be very basic – it’s not about providing everybody with an off-grid solution.
“But can we give people the ability, so that if they jump on eBay or Amazon and they buy themselves a solar panel, have they got something to plug it into?”
Mr Crowbolder said he would also commission a feasibility study to look at whether a dam could be built between Essex and Kent. The scheme would connect the two counties and create a freshwater lake, with housing potentially built along the length of the dam.
He also argues that part of the solution to London’s housing crisis could be encouraging the construction of what he calls ‘mega-buildings’ on top of roads like the North Circular.
“The way I see it is like lots of mini-estates, gathered together,” he said. “So it’s not a sprawling mass, an anonymous corridor with 10,000 doors on it. You’d have to have a lot of green space.”
Mr Crowbolder said he will be trying to crowdfund the money for the £10,000 deposit required to stand as a candidate, as well as the further £10,000 required to feature in the booklet of candidate manifestos which is mailed out to all voters ahead of the election.
He admitted that his chances of victory are slim. With the exception of Ken Livingstone, no independent London mayoral candidate has ever received more than four per cent of the vote.
“What’s important is that people are given the ability to vote for democracy,” he said. “Whatever happens will happen, but I just believe in giving London a choice.”
Mr Crowbolder is the 14th candidate to declare his intention to run. Other candidates include Labour’s Sadiq Khan, the Conservatives’ Susan Hall, the Greens’ Zoë Garbett, the Liberal Democrats’ Rob Blackie and Reform UK’s Howard Cox, along with eight further candidates running either with smaller parties or as independents.