Yesterday I was asked a surprisingly difficult question. I was asked what I thought of charities and local authorities setting up "ethical" letting agencies. The fact is I haven't given huge amounts of thought to it - though our office is maintaining a watching brief on their activities and seeing what can be learnt.
So I had to retreat to an instinctive (and unpopular) no. It seems inconceivably that the state or non-profit sector could or should compete in this space cost effectively. We're glad they do so as they are a rare respite for people who are routinely exploited, but on being scrutinised on the issue, I just couldn't see how they could be scaled to have a beneficial impact for millions of people.
I have had a think now, and while I did so fully prepared to explain why I had been wrong and have changed my mind, I haven't. I really don't think such projects are a solution to the letting agency problem. But as a representative of a tenant advocacy group, this does bear some explaining.
The Let Property Campaign, HMRC’s initiative on tax in the private rented sector, is stepping up its work to ensure private landlords pay the full tax on their rental income.
Wales moved a step closer to comprehensive landlord and letting agent licensing this week as the Welsh Assembly voted to approve the final text of the Housing (Wales) Bill.
The government insists that it’s doing all it can to end the housing crisis by ramping up the rate of house building. So far it’s managed a modest bump, but earlier this week, we learned that it's forecasting another dip in 2014/15.
At a time when we need to double house building to keep rents and house prices affordable, to think that the government could allow a fall like this is staggering.
The Labour Party is calling a debate on the issue in Parliament next Wednesday, 9th July, to examine what has gone wrong and what can be done to boost supply.
The coalition always seem very keen to look at what’s happening in Sweden and see what we could all learn from how they operate. Free schools, equality and healthcare are all models that have been viewed by jealous eyes in Westminster of how to do the right thing affordably. David Cameron himself is a close friend of the Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
The one model that has never been mentioned in the UK politics debate is the Swedish housing model.
I have lived here in Sweden for three years now and I have discussed housing & renting with many Swedes whose eyebrows rise when I explain to them how the UK private rental sector works and the sums of cash involved.
I also have experienced first hand how housing works here and there are some startling rules that govern both buying and renting homes, I’m not certain if it’s a deliberate ploy to keep prices in check or simply just the “Swedish” way.
Generation Rent was very happy to attend the launch of a new report on electrical safety in the private rented sector last week, entitled ‘Home Improvement: Tackling Poor Electrical Safety in the Private Rented Sector’.
Alex Hilton from Generation Rent supporting the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Private Rented Sector in calling for tougher landlord regulation
You can see the BBC News item here
Landlord representatives this week signalled they are ready to back down on their long standing opposition to the creation of a national register of landlords.
A low cost implementation of a National Register of Landlords
The last time the government seriously considered implementing a National Register of Landlords (more accurately a register of tenancies) it was estimated that the cost would be £300 million. The proposal was parked, however, we suspect this figure was derived by simply asking well known consultancy firms what they would charge to deliver it.
Generation Rent, and previously as the National Private Tenants Organisation, has been calling for landlord registration for years. This briefing outlines the principal benefit of a register and a low cost means for implementation.
Alex Hilton (me) brandishing the Evening Standard today
The Evening Standard today splashes on an exclusive YouGov poll in which 50% of Londoners want house prices to decrease. The Housing Minister Kris Hopkins, Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson have all stated publicly that they want house price rises to continue.
With half of Britain's renters in London and the South East, these powerful politicians are increasingly at odds with the public's day to day experience of the economy. They are also ignoring warnings from the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who has called the current state of the housing market "the biggest single threat to the economic recovery".
Right now, politicians seem happy for a free housing market to grind down renters as long as homeowners and landlords are content, and so they have offered no real solutions. We have offered a solution. Our paper, Buying out of the Bubble, outlines how a secondary, bubble-free housing market can be developed, offering low cost housing to people willing to forego free market-level returns in capital gain or rents.
A secondary housing market would provide affordable housing for those people who just want a home, not an investment, while insulating the free market from what will otherwise become a traumatic market adjustment, with dire consequences for London's economy.
Sign up as a supporter of Generation Rent and help us win a better deal for renters.
Director, Generation Rent