Figures released by Generation Rent today add to the growing body of evidence that the private rented sector is failing tenants and needs to be reformed. Based on an opinion poll from ComRes, Generation Rent has found that the cost of rents continues to hit too many, with 39% of those polled cutting back on heating due to the cost of rent and a third reducing their spending on food. Affordability also keeps people stuck in private renting when they want to leave. Two thirds of renters say that the main reason they rent is because they cannot afford to buy their own home.
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.
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
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.