For many there was eager anticipation that the recent Labour and Conservative Party Conferences might provide further information about their intentions to improve the private rental sector (PRS) – following much discussion over recent years. Whilst the finer detail wasn’t forthcoming, housing and the PRS clearly remain ‘hot topics’. Here we provide a brief round-up of what was said to give an indication of the political stance of each Party.
It was Shadow housing minister, Lucy Powell, who confirmed Labour's position as ‘the party of homeowners and tenants’. Here are the main announcements made at the Conference (relating to housing), which could affect the PRS.
- There is a need for more affordable homes but not for the benefit of landlords or second homeowners;
- There should be a rebalance of power between developers and communities giving local councils the power to deliver affordable housing to meet the needs of its communities rather than seeing housing that will make the most profit for developers. As part of this Labour would reform compulsory purchase powers to help local authorities acquire land for affordable housing if it is in the public interest;
- Foreign buyers should be stopped from buying property ‘off plan’ – before local people get the chance;
- First time buyers should have first ‘dibs’ on new homes – for a period of 6 months;
- The link between genuinely affordable housing and average earnings should be re-established. To help those currently ‘locked out of the system’ by bringing affordable rents and the dream of home ownership closer. Affordable rents matching around 30% of average household incomes;
- There are plans to launch a ‘great housing challenge’ – to “develop a housing plan together”; learning from Labour councils, mayors and the Welsh government;
- Quality, affordability and security in private rentals should be tackled;
- There continues to be a Labour pledge to abolish the Right to Buy Scheme and a target to build 150,000 social homes per year; 100,000 of which to be built by councils.
- Decarbonisation is key to Labour with a pledge of £6bn-a-year retrofit programme that would aim to upgrade 19 million homes over the next decade; although no mention was made how this might impact landlords and tenants.
At the Conservative Conference, Eddie Hughes, minister for rough sleeping and housing at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities took part in a panel discussion ‘Rent Back Better: What does the Renters' Reform Bill mean for the future of private renting? There was expectation that this may lead to details being released of the forthcoming White Paper on rental reform, instead he reiterated that meetings and consultations were still underway to discuss the Paper– and clearly the discussions on the day would be considered as part of this.
In brief it was announced at the event:
- Lifetime Deposits were likely to be introduced (where the deposit can be moved from one tenancy to the next – to avoid the tenant having to save for a new deposit each time they move) – although it was acknowledged that this should not present any risk to landlords, nor financial burden to the tenant, but instead be a variant of an insurance policy.
- A National Landlord Register is being considered – to assist councils but without any additional demands on landlords
- Enforcement of existing lettings regulation is proving difficult to enforce, due to resource at local level, and although there was calls for funds to support councils to be ring-fenced, government had reservations about whether this would be feasible.
- Whilst the government is moving to abolish ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions, it was acknowledged that this might not be the right thing to do - due to the unintended consequences it could bring.
- Tenants need help to build assets to support home ownership; again more affordable homes were needed.
- With the condition of 23% of properties in the PRS being currently below standard, there needs to be a conscious drive to address this.
Overall there was clearly much discussion by both political parties and yet we’ll still have to wait and see what the future brings for the PRS – in the meantime we’ll be keeping up with developments in the market and, as always, our local teams are available to assist you should you need it. Don’t forget, if you’ve not already done so, to subscribe to our regular e-newsletters too; providing useful information and advice that may be of interest to you.
To see Lucy Powells Conference Speech in full, please visit: https://labour.org.uk/press/conference-speech-lucy-powell-shadow-secretary-of-state-for-housing/
To see a recording of the panel discussion entitled ‘ Rent Back Better: What does the Renters' Reform Bill mean for the future of private renting?, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc_7_RrLhJc&t=7s
PLEASE NOTE: This is a report of the recent Labour Party and Conservative Party Conferences held during September and October 2021 and should not be considered as a reflection on the views or opinions of Your Move.