Queen's Speech 2017: are you listening Westminster?

Jun 21, 2017 12:10 PM

Before today's Queen's Speech, which set out the government's parliamentary programme for the next two years, there were two theories about how housing and private renting might feature, and what kind of prominence it would be given.

Option one, what could be called the pessimist's view (for those, like us, who continue to see housing as a central issue for the country's future) went something like this: 'Brexit discussions will dominate parliamentary and civil service time up to 2019, so domestic issues will inevitably take a back seat. In any case, properly fixing the housing market requires large levels of investment and an ability to take on the status quo, an impossibility for a divided, minority government.'

Theory two, the positive one, suggested that the Grenfell Tower disaster had woken politicians up to their past failures and action simply had to be taken. Recent figures also showed that voters were turning out in higher numbers and should therefore motivate more reform. Furthermore, it was pointed out that a lot could be done that would cost the state very little, yet be wildly popular with millions: the lettings fees ban was already in the manifesto, but similar cases could also be made for stronger tenancy rights for renters, a robust landlord licensing system, and controls on levels of rents.

In the end, a bill was announced to ban letting agent fees and cap tenancy deposits, but we otherwise got a Queens Speech with little to make private renters think that their activity at the General Election had been fully understood.

The ongoing commitment to a ban on letting fees is a welcome inclusion, and testament to the power of renters when we get organised. Generation Rent will be pressing to make sure the ban is implemented as quickly as possible, and makes sure that all fees are banned.

We will also be exploring how that bill can  be amended and expanded, to improve other areas of private renting.

But we need to keep campaigning if we want to see the real structural reforms that are needed in the private rented sector, and to ultimately end the housing crisis.

Despite government suggesting before the election that it would look again at security of tenure for private tenants - the lack of which undermines so many other rights in the sector - there was nothing to suggest more people will be protected from eviction anytime soon.

In response, Generation Rent is today launching our campaign to end section 21, the 'no-fault' eviction process which means that renters can be asked to leave with just two month's notice, and which effectively means that those living in the PRS never know where they'll be living from year to year.

Security is vital for tenants to properly assert their rights around poor management and unsafe conditions, without fear of eviction. It's also needed to stop the revolving door between private renting and homelessness, where the ending of a PRS tenancy remains the leading reason for people presenting at their local authority as homeless.

Furthermore, responsible landlords who want a long-term and sustainable private rented sector should also welcome greater security - it's the current lack of security that has encouraged speculation in the sector, with investors ready to churn tenants and sell up without thinking about what happens to the people living there.

We have a petition to sign, outlining how we think tenancy reform should function, and we're also asking supporters to write to their MP, asking them to lobby the housing minster about this issue.

Private renters flexed their muscles at the General Election, with thousands more registering to vote and increased turnout in key seats. Yet on one of the fundamental issues of today - the ability for someone to live somewhere long-term, and call somewhere home, the government remains silent.

That's despite the fact that 54% of renters voted for the opposition, to the Conservatives' 31% - a huge gap which you would think they would want to address.

Renters are gaining power, and the letting fees announcement is a real win, but there's so much more we can do. Let's build on where we are, making sure that by the time of the next Queens Speech (whenever that may be), we have genuine commitments to improve security for all private renters.