Unless of course, you’re in the housing world where things are a bit calmer. The main political parties have yet to make any noises about how they will solve the housing crisis at all. But in their silence, the main party leaders have been shown up by two announcements coming out of the devolved nations this week. These proposals show how things can be improved for private renters, but also how those in England – with the UK’s highest number of private renters – could be left behind.
The week began with the Scottish government announcing its second consultation on tenancy reform, including a review of how ‘no fault’ evictions work and their potential abolition. This is ongoing work and not part of the Election but already shows how radical steps can be taken in the private rented sector, if the political will is present. Generation Rent will be contributing to the consultation to ensure that any tenancy reform does not have unintended negative consequences for renters.
Meanwhile in Wales, the launch of the Plaid Cymru manifesto also saw some strong commitments to helping renters hit by the housing crisis – namely promises to introduce rent control, establish a minimum tenancy length (including 12 months for homeless people housed in the PRS) and introducing higher council tax for second homes, particularly where those second homes are causing housing problems for other people.
Clearly these are high-level promises and the detail needs to be seen. But they show that political action can be brought to bear on the housing market, and the needs of renters can be focused on too. Rather than just hearing from parties about abstract (and inadequate) housebuilding targets, we expect politicians to think about policy that can help private renters tackle their immediate problems – affordability, insecurity, poor conditions and mistreatment – as soon as possible.
At the moment, the devolved nations show that English renters might be left behind. But with 11 million renters in England, they cannot be ignored at this Election. We showed last year that renters have great potential political power and May 7th is the time to exercise it. Whether the other parties will wake up to this in time in unknown – but they ignore us at their peril.