Astonishing figures recently published by the GMB union show the huge profits that landlords in the private rented sector are making through housing benefit payments.
The numbers show how the welfare bill is directly inflated by the huge rents that landlords are charging to their tenants on housing benefit, costing the state millions each year and ending up in the pockets of a small number of people
Compulsory registration of landlords and letting agents, mandatory safety checks; what we can take from the Welsh Housing Bill.
The motion to agree the general principles of the Welsh House Bill was unanimously carried in the Welsh National Assembly this week. The Housing Bill aims to improve the supply, quality and standards of housing in Wales and takes various aspects of housing into account, ranging from tackling homelessness to legislating within the private rented sector. In a positive move for renters, the Housing Bill specifically sets out legislation for compulsory registration and licensing of all landlords and agents. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the bill include a legal requirement for landlords to undertake regular safety inspections, such as electrical inspections, in all private rented housing, so the bill may yet improve.
Shared ownership is touted in some quarters as the answer to the housing crisis, but, as Harriet Meyer’s piece in yesterday’s Observer finds, existing schemes don’t seem to help anyone who needs it.
The idea is that people who can’t afford the full price of a house can buy, say, a quarter of it and rent the rest, which is typically cheaper than renting 100% and also lets them build up an asset. It was designed with “key workers” in mind – those public servants like nurses or teachers who have to spend their careers in areas that are not affordable on a modest salary.
The latest English Housing Survey was released last month, covering the period from April 2012 to March 2013, based on field surveys of a sample of 13,652 households.
The survey covers all housing tenures but has a particular resonance for private renters. As has been widely reported, the PRS is now the second largest housing tenure behind home ownership, at four million households. This amounts to 9.1 million private renters in England, calculated multiplying the number of households by average PRS renter size. Unfortunately the statistics do not paint a good picture for private renters and show why campaigning on these issues is so vital.
As recent reports have shown, private renters regularly face problems with the safety and fitness of their homes. Recognising this, the Department for Communities and Local Government is currently conducting a review into property conditions in the private rented sector and policy to improve standards.
To read Generation Rent’s submission, click here.
Earlier this year, Ed Miliband set out proposals for Labour’s housing policy when in power. On the face of it, his plans are generally positive and certainly a step forward for renters. Writing in the Evening Standard and focusing on London, he called for a national register of landlords and the regulation of letting agents – both policies that chime with Generation Rent’s belief that these sectors need minimum standards of management and more transparency for tenants. Of course, we await the exact details of these policies, which would require enforcement powers and resources to ensure that they were effective.