Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds has identified stability, affordability and quality as the key to growing the private rented sector. Reynolds was speaking at Winckworth Sherwood’s private rented sector conference, where she also hinted at where policy will focus for a future Labour government in tackling the unpredictability of rising rents and the insecurity of short-term leases.
Reynolds set out the need for 200,000 homes to be built before the end of the next parliament; the requirement for stable homes as the impact on children living in the rented sector and having to move frequently is a factor for those who are not in education, employment or training, as well as more certainty for landlords who are more likely to benefit financially from stable tenancies.
She also hinted that the Labour party is looking closely at the mortgage industry and the mortgage products that don’t allow landlords to give longer tenancies; considering the issue of rent increases and the effect on those with already squeezed wages; reviewing the charges for tenants made by letting agents and those that they consider to be unfair to ensure tenants are not ‘ripped off’; and considering incentivising landlords to sign up to minimum standards for property.
Reynolds joined a number of industry experts at the Winckworth Sherwood conference to debate the future of the sector and to listen to opinions to help shape future policy.
Karen Cooksley, partner and head of planning at Winckworth Sherwood, said: ‘There needs to be a cultural shift in the UK, as in the past all political parties have focused on owner occupation in the housing sector and on the aspiration to own a home. A message for the future will need to focus on the fact that people haven’t failed if they choose to rent or if they cannot afford to rent. There are many more people in the rental sector than there were 10 years ago so this cannot be ignored.’
Other speakers at the conference included Ravinder Walia from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and head of the DCLG Build to Rent Fund, who focused on the financial backing for the private rented sector to encourage new building and the ambition to increase the size of the private rented sector to around 32 per cent of housing stock across the UK.
Walia also hinted that there might be further announcements made by the government before the end of the year on the various funding schemes, which are in place already. He also focused on the need to create a more stable environment for funders to give them the confidence to invest in the sector where banks are not yet prepared to invest.