Here’s a post the people at Progress commissioned from us. Great to see Labour coming out with real proposals for private renters:
Renting is something people do for a short time, when they are young, while they save for a deposit or wait for social housing – that’s still the perception of renting among many homeowners. That view, however, no longer reflects the reality.
There are now as many people renting privately as there are social renters and over a million families now live in rented housing. With a shortage of social housing and high prices locking people out of buying, we are entering a period when many people will have no choice but to rent long-term and may never buy – the so called ‘Generation Rent’. That’s why it’s important Labour makes renting a better option than it is at the moment.
Growing demand means rents are rising fast and becoming less and less affordable. The tenancy rules under which people rent (the Assured Shorthold Tenancy) allow landlords to end tenancies with only two months’ notice. In practice, it is often only a month. Standards in private rented homes are highly variable with a large proportion falling below the ‘decent homes’ standard which prevails in social housing.
Jack Dromey this week made the first solid steps to improve the situation for renters by proposing to regulate lettings agents.
Renters often fall victim to the actions of unscrupulous letting agents with their high fees, hidden charges and broken agreements. I’m not the only person to wonder why on earth it costs £100 or more to resign a tenancy agreement, when the cost to the agent is a second-class stamp. Or why people should hand over deposits of hundreds of pounds in cash without knowing whether they’ll get it back or if the person on the other side of the counter is reliable.
Labour is exploring a code of conduct for lettings agents, greater transparency in fees and charges and new standards people must meet before they open a lettings agency. Such rules have been in place for estate agents for a long time.
We’ll need to do more to make renting a secure long-term option and we can expect further measures from Hilary Benn and Jack Dromey in the coming months. This is the right thing to do and an important opportunity for Labour. When political parties respond to people’s housing needs and ambitions they reap a long-term political benefit.
Labour’s postwar programme of council housing helped give a majority of people a secure and affordable home. To this day social housing tenants are some of Labour’s strongest supporters.
Margaret Thatcher’s Right-to-Buy turned a generation of working-class people Tory by fulfilling their ambitions to own their own home (though to wider public detriment).
This new and growing constituency of renters (often the children of that Right-to-Buy generation) are yet to find a political voice and Labour is right to stand up for their interests.