The number of renters is growing so fast there will soon be over 100 MPs who represent more renters than home owners.
In research Generation Rent has published today, the number of MPs who have more constituents who rent than own their home has risen from 38 in 2001 (6% of MPs) to 65 in 2011 (10%). If home ownership remains unaffordable and this trend continues, renters will start to outnumber home owners in 104 seats (16%) by 2021.
This represents a huge increase in political power for renters after a generation of neglect by successive governments. We are calling on MPs to give renters a voice in Westminster by becoming Renter Champions, and we need your help.
Image: Renter majorities in 2021
A recent government update on the UK’s benefit system revealed that five million people are claiming housing benefit. It’s therefore of no surprise that comments by the previous Minister of Housing, Kris Hopkins, regarding renting housing while receiving this benefit enraged and worried many, including MPs. In a Panorama documentary aired last month, Hopkins described the landlord’s right to evict those on benefits as “perfectly legitimate”, sparking fury amongst those who utilise this country’s financial support system. However, was Hopkins right? Is the tenancy completely dependent on the wishes of the landlord? Or, is this yet another case of discrimination against those who aren’t rich enough to be heard?
We’re setting off around the country for the next few weeks as the party conference season begins. As part of our campaign to make housing the number one issue at next year’s election, we’re holding events at each of the three conferences, starting with Labour, whose members descend on Manchester this weekend.
Emma Reynolds, the shadow housing minister, is speaking at a fringe event we are hosting with Shout (Social Housing Under Threat) which asks what her party has to offer the country’s 20 million renters.
The event – which will also hear from Alison Inman of Shout, John Healey MP, Sarah Hayward of Camden Council and Owen Jones – is open to anyone with a conference pass and starts at 6.30pm on Sunday. We’ve written a bit more on this in a guest blog for the Young Fabians.
There is one year until the 2015 General Election and housing will be a central issue. We are deep in a housing crisis and radical action will be needed, whoever is in government once the votes are counted.
We’ve had a number of requests to publish the list of how MPs voted in the failed bid to outlaw letting agent fees to tenants. You can see the full list here.
This campaign isn’t dead though. We’ll be working with enlightened Peers to bring this back in the Lords. Unlike MPs, Lords don’t get their letting agent fees paid on expenses so we’re expecting more support.
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.
We kind of knew this already, but Labour is officially backing our campaign to end Section 21 and will scrap landlords’ ability to evict tenants without giving a reason. It was reported by the BBC this morning, was part of the shadow Housing Secretary John Healey’s speech in the conference centre, and then a motion on housing that included it was passed.
This follows members of the End Unfair Evictions doing a lot of work behind the scenes to successfully get local Labour parties to support the motion.
An even bigger piece of news was a £20m pot to jumpstart tenants’ unions in the UK, reported by the Independent.
An intriguing exchange in the House of Commons this week may contain clues about the government’s big forthcoming announcement of reforms to tenancies.
During a debate on temporary accommodation, the backbench Conservative MP Bob Blackman said this:
The greatest cause of homelessness is the end of an assured shorthold tenancy. They usually run for six months and at the end of that period families often have to move. The solution is clear: we need longer tenancies and more security of tenure for families, but also assurances to landlords that they will get paid their rent and that the tenants will behave themselves in accordance with the contract they have signed. I ask the Minister to update us on where we are going with lengthening tenancies, which would dramatically reduce homelessness at a stroke. Perhaps we can do that.
The Budget is coming up on 22 November and we already know the Chancellor is planning an announcement on giving private renters greater security of tenure.
The inadequacy of private tenancies has become too difficult to ignore, and we now have both Labour and the Conservatives trying to find a solution.
Not only will reform of the rental market reap social and economic benefits – there are huge political rewards for getting it right.
The ban on letting fees is currently the government’s flagship policy to help renters, and we’re currently waiting for a draft bill to be published, which follows a consultation that we and hundreds of our supporters responded to.
In the meantime, MPs gave us a taste of how the legislation will proceed in Parliament yesterday morning by debating the subject for the first time since last year’s Autumn Statement.