As the publication date for the government's Housing White Paper approaches, we and groups across the the housing world are hoping for an announcement that will signal a 'whole new mindset', as the Secretary of State has promised.
One item that will be included is confirmation of how the government's long-running Starter Homes policy will work - and the detail will tell us how far it will go towards slowing the affordability crisis for first-time buyers. This is the government's flagship policy that was pitched as "turning Generation Rent into Generation Buy".
This morning, Mortgage Strategy magazine and the Daily Telegraph reported that Santander is requiring its buy-to-let borrowers to raise the rent on their tenants as high as possible.
The bank even demands that landlords get a valuation of the market rent every time the tenancy is up for renewal and then "take all steps to ensure that the review [with the tenant] takes place and leads to the maximum increase in the rent which can reasonably be achieved."
Just before Christmas, as the weather got colder and government released its latest update on the fuel poverty statistics, there was still no news for private renters who need clarity about the detail of minimum energy efficiency standards in the PRS.
The statistics showed that one in five private rented households are officially fuel poor, and that the average ‘fuel poverty gap’ – the amount of money needed for a household to escape fuel poverty – is highest for private renters.
Despite these worrying trends, there is, in theory at least, some light at the end of the tunnel – but delays in implementing the policy need to be quickly remedied for that to be realised.
Generation Rent would be nothing without the people who donate their money or time to the cause. We have a team of two full-time staff going into 2017, and we are ever more reliant on the generosity of our supporters.
The organisation is governed by a board of unpaid trustees, who support the team and enable us to devote as much of our energy to campaigning for renters' rights and building the wider movement.
With the need to develop the diversity of our funding, and new opportunities to make the most of, we are recruiting several new trustees who will help us do this.
Since its launch, Generation Rent has achieved a series of improvements to the lives of renters, including:
- Outlawing of revenge evictions
- Making landlords pay their fair share of tax
- Stronger regulation of landlords and letting agents
- A proposed ban on letting fees
The growing renter population finally has a voice, but it needs to be much stronger.
For many years, debates around housing supply have suggested that a model needs to be worked up that leverages investment into building new long-term, professionally managed privately rented accommodation, as is much more normal in other countries around the world.
Generation Rent has always argued that new supply will only help a small percentage of lucky renters, and that the priority should be to support legislative reform that would improve things for the over two million London renters in existing stock.
Some of you will have read stories in the past year or two about property guardians. Originally a low cost way of beating extortionate private rental prices, the scheme has been coming under fire for rent hikes, poor living conditions and a lack of regulation.
I run a Facebook-based campaign and support group called Property Guardians UK. Over the past 2 years I have collected stories and information from those who came to my site and provided some with legal advice on problems they had with their agencies. I am also a guardian myself, currently in my 8th year in the scheme.
There was some extra cash for "affordable" housing in Philip Hammond's Autumn Statement, but there was only really one big story from today:
The Government is going to ban letting fees!
This is a phenomenal achievement and the result of a tireless campaign over recent years by us, Shelter, Citizens Advice, the Debrief and local renter groups around the country.
Dozens of us investigated our local letting agents to build up the case for reform on www.lettingfees.co.uk. Thousands of us signed petitions and wrote to our MPs and the government listened.
Earlier this year, Labour commissioned the chief executive of the country's biggest house builder to lead a study of the decline in home ownership - the main reason politicians are worried about housing these days.
The Redfern Review has been published today. It shouldn't be a great surprise that its conclusions don't fit completely with our views - there's very little comment on the needs of private renters - but it does make an important contribution to the debate, and there's a lot we can agree on. Indeed, it takes a more objective approach than parties and industry players have done when they've tackled the same subject - there's refreshingly little dogma or evidence of Taylor Wimpey's commercial interests at play (though it plays down builders' profit-driven reluctance to build enough homes).
Figures produced by the End Child Poverty Coalition this week show distressing levels of child poverty after housing costs are included, including within much of London.
The data breaks down levels of child poverty by parliamentary constituency, local authority, and local ward level, and shows that of the twenty constituencies with the highest levels of child poverty, seven are in London, while 11 out of 20 of the highest figures at local authority level are also in the capital.