It started with a snap of a tube ad in Bond Street from property management company Hostmaker. The ad in question imagines a Landlord complaining that their long term let is “ticking along terribly”, and suggests that by ditching long term tenants they can make up to “30 per cent more” on the short term let market.
Hiding behind the cutesy image of a cartoon pigeon is a disgusting ad which feeds the narrative that tenants are disposable, and that profiteering from property is more important than providing long term homes.
It’s already hard enough being a renter in London: inflated rent, poor conditions and no-fault evictions. And on top of all that there’s the capital’s growing holiday let market, fueled by online “sharing economy” platforms that encourage landlords to abandon the long-term market in favour of offering their properties for short rents, in the process forcing people out of the communities where they’ve always lived.
Right now, Airbnb alone takes 17,000 homes out of London’s rental market while councils are putting up households in temporary accommodation. In fact, London Renters Union’s Newham Branch were protesting outside Newham Council just yesterday over the treatment of their members in temporary housing. The union told of one family who had been living in “temporary accommodation” for over 20 years whilst another were forcibly displaced to Bradford when they struggled to pay the rent
The authorities have already identified short term lets as a problem, and landlords in London now need planning permission to let their properties out on this basis for more than 90 days in the year. But overstretched council planning departments are unable to keep on top of illicit holiday lets, and some platforms are complicit in landlords breaking the law. A BBC investigation in February found that several platforms, including Hostmaker, offered to help landlords get around the 90-day rule. They are deliberately working against the best interests of Londoners.
That’s why Generation Rent are taking matters into our own hands. We kicked off a petition, that at the time of writing, has already garnered the support of over 8000 people, all calling for the ads to get the axe. People have come together under the banner of #homesnothotels and are ramping up pressure on the Mayor to get moving.
This isn’t the first time Londoners have called for advertising restrictions across the network. Three years ago, the mayor announced bans on ads for “unrealistic beauty standards” and fast food posters after a successful petition
And it’s not like there isn’t political will. Within minutes of Mark Platt’s tweet, GLA members Tom Copley and Sian Berry alongside MP Karen Buck were calling for action with public letters being posted online.
We know that one petition won’t solve the London housing crisis but it’s an important step forward, to treating tenants like people, not paychecks. So, Sadiq: the ball’s in your court.
Georgie Laming is a campaigner at Generation Rent, which represents 11 millions renters across the UK.