The government's immigration folly overshadows good work to tackle rogue landlords
Today the government announced a raft of measures that will be in the Housing Bill that being is being prepared for Parliament later this year.
Sadly much of the focus was on the extension of the duty to all landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. We’ve already expressed our opposition to this policy elsewhere, but it is particularly galling that this is being taken forward when there has been no public analysis of the West Midlands ‘pilot scheme’, and other groups have seen cases of it increasing discrimination in lettings.
Despite this policy dominating the headlines, though, the Department for Communities and Local Government has also announced more welcome plans to improve the systems for tackling rogue landlords.
Zero inflation, but not if you're a private renter
The government has made a big song and dance about the zero inflation rate - for the first time in years the cost of living isn't rising. But that only applies if you don't have to worry about the rent.
Today the Office for National Statistics published the latest private rental inflation figures, which stand at 2.5% across Great Britain, and 3.8% in London.
Save Generation Rent - donate today!
Generation Rent needs your help. We unexpectedly have only two months of funding left. There is a real danger that the campaign will simply vanish, and with it the national voice of private renters in the media and political debate.
We are working hard to secure new sources of long term funding, but this will take months and we need your help now. We need to raise £60,000 by 31 August. These funds would allow us to continue our work empowering renters to put pressure on Parliament, the London mayoral candidates and local councils while applying for grants and building a sustainable organisation.
Please donate just £20 – or what you can afford – on our crowdfunding site, People’s Republic, who are kindly waiving their fees because they like us so much.
Criminal landlord database shows what protections we still need
Environmental Health News (EHN) has done us all a huge service by publishing a list of landlords with convictions for housing offences.
For the first time we know the 2,006 companies and individuals who have been successfully prosecuted, but this figure is dwarfed by the 740,000 private rented households estimated to have hazards dangerous to human health. And the landlords in question get away with fines that hardly make a dent on the income they get from rents.
This has to stop.
Majority of under-40s to rent privately by 2025
With impressive speed after the Budget, the accountancy firm PwC has published its Economic Outlook for the UK, and its prediction that a majority of under-40s will be renting privately by 2025 made the front page of the Guardian this morning.
The UK Housing ‘Crisis’: Are You Profiting From It?
A blog from guest writer Zeph Auerbach asks - how much personal responsibility do we have for the housing crisis?
Now that the election is over, and Eurovision is a distant memory, London turns back to its favourite moan: the housing crisis. I frequently share this moan with my mixed group of friends: some renters, some homeowners, some letting out the odd room or flat. This conversation always seems to have an 'in it together' atmosphere, as we berate the property speculators, the oligarchs with vacant mansions, and most of all our government, which clearly sees its role as sustaining the rise in house prices (Help to Buy, pension reforms, reductions in stamp duty and so on).
But we ignore the elephant in the over-valued and under-sized room. This is an elephant which you'd see, if you looked hard enough, lurking in the corner of almost every Independent or Guardian article decrying the housing crisis. The elephant in the room is simply this: we find ourselves on opposing sides of this ‘crisis’ and for some of us this ‘crisis’ is something we profit from and sustain.
Meanwhile, in Spain
This week, the judge in the case of Bloc La Bordeta, an occupied flat block in Barcelona, ordered the eviction of nine adults and four children, despite both Barcelona City Council and the Catalan Government having urged that the families be allowed to remain in their home of 6 months. Once the injunction arrives, the occupants will have seven days to leave, before being forcibly evicted and in all likelihood, left on the street.
A mixed Summer Budget for renters
Having won the election, George Osborne used his first Budget of the parliament to rifle through the pockets of his vanquished political rivals. He abolished non-dom status for permanent UK residents and announced an increase in the minimum wage, dubbing it the Living Wage in the process - both more or less Labour election policies.
And he nicked a Green Party policy by cutting tax relief for landlords.
Is your MP a landlord? There's a 1 in 5 chance
The first Register of MPs' Interests of the new parliament was published last week. A comb through the data reveals that there are 126 residential landlords in Parliament. Landlords make up only 3% of the population but they are represented by 19% of the House of Commons (the same proportion of the UK population who rent privately).
Buy-to-let: Bad for renters, bad for first-time buyers – and now bad for everyone?
The buy-to-let ‘boom’ that has occurred over the last twenty years, coinciding with the huge growth of the private rented sector more generally, has meant this kind of mortgage has been normalised within the British psyche, but without perhaps enough analysis of what it means for the economy and wider society.
Bills announced to reform private renting
Parliament has announced the 20 Private Member's Bills that are being introduced today, and they include three on housing.
Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North, has introduced the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill, which will amend a law from the 1980s to ensure that rented properties meet certain standards. We think this is a huge opportunity to give tenants the protection they need from unscrupulous landlords and agents - and finally bring renting into the 21st century. Karen is a longtime campaigner on housing so we'll work hard to support her as she takes the Bill through Parliament.
Met appeal to trace bogus landlord
At least six renters in London have been ripped off to the tune of £30,000 since April by a fraudster posing as a landlord.
The Met Police have issued an alert today for information to catch the suspect, pictured below, and have asked members of the public to call 101 and quote reference 1217609/15.
Bournemouth Council to enter property market
Bournemouth Borough Council is to debate on Monday a plan to buy up properties in the town to house homeless families - a practice that is already happening in the London boroughs of Enfield and Westminster.
Local authorities have a statutory duty to house homeless people in temporary and emergency accommodation. Because they have no available properties of their own they often have to turn to bed and breakfasts to put families up. Councillor Robert Lawton explains:
"It will help us to reduce costs, for example, avoiding the use of expensive B&B accommodation. By owning the properties, it would mean that the council would be able to ensure the properties are good quality and well managed. In the longer term, any income generated and increase in property values would come back to the council to help fund additional services for vulnerable people."
Social housing sector makes its pitch
There have been not one but two reports out in the past 24 hours which advise the government how it can boost housebuilding at the lower end of the market - something that was woeful under the past government with its slashed grant funding and so-called affordable rent.
In a bid to shake off the toxicity of the "affordable" tag, the National Housing Federation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Savills have produced a report into how living rents could be set and underpin an increase in housebuilding of 80,000 homes a year. Based on what is affordable on low incomes, their local "living" rents are set at roughly 40% of the market rate - instead of the 80% the government claims is affordable. Just £3bn of public money a year could fund this programme.
Ending Fuel Poverty: if not now, when?
Today sees the first major public lobby of the new parliament, with up to 8000 people descending on the House of Commons from across the country to speak to their MPs about climate change.
Renters should be interested in this because the number one domestic policy demand will be ‘Warm homes for all’ – and this means making energy efficiency an infrastructure spending priority, as our friends the Energy Bill Revolution have called for in the run-up to the General Election.
Guest Blog: Calling all private renters in Kensington and Chelsea
Our friends at Kensington and Chelsea Social Council are undertaking a project to look at the issues affecting private tenants in the borough - particularly in the clear lack of affordable housing in the private sector. Part of this is an online survey that they're asking all private renters in the area to complete.
In the run-up to the London Mayoral elections, work like this is vital to help support renters across the capital and make sure no one is priced out of London - wherever they live or work.
Shedding light on letting fees
If you're thinking of moving to the north east London borough of Waltham Forest, be sure to check what letting fees you'd have to pay with each agent. Our friends at Waltham Forest Renters have published a list of all the area's letting agents and what fees they display online. A two-person household could find themselves paying between £150 and £792 depending on who they pick. The story has been picked up in the local press and by Londonist.
The Queen’s Speech: Surely 11 million private renters warrant a little more?
Although the main housing elements of today’s Queen’s Speech were reported in the week leading up to the announcement, it’s still very disappointing to have a housing bill outlined today that does nothing for the 11 million (and growing) private renters in this country.
Government pushes ahead with Right to Buy
This morning Greg Clark, the new Communities and Local Government Secretary, announced that the government would introduce a Housing Bill to extend the Right to Buy to tenants of housing associations - funded by the sale of high value council houses.
When faced with a housing crisis that forces millions of vulnerable people and would-be first time buyers into inadequate, insecure and expensive private rented homes, this is the last policy you would pick to fix it.
This government can't afford to ignore renters
Ignoring renters could cost the Conservative Party the next election, according to new Generation Rent analysis.
On current trends, a third of parliamentary seats – including 96 held by the Tories – could be decided by the renter vote in 2020, but aside from vague plans to increase home ownership, the government currently has no plans to improve the lives of renters.
We need all London MPs to back renters
Generation Rent is calling on London’s 73 MPs to support reforms to improve the lives of the capital’s renters. Analysis of the election results shows that 34 of them could be voted out by renters in five years’ time.
By the next General Election in 2020, there will be enough floating voters who rent to overturn the parliamentary majority in 34 London constituencies, currently held by 13 Conservatives, 20 Labour MPs and 1 Liberal Democrat.
A Nation of Renters: the latest report from Citizen's Advice
Today, the Citizens Advice released a report, A Nation of Renters, which explores the doubling of the private rented sector over the past decade and its failure to adapt to the needs of renters.
Philip Davies MP: An apology
An apology to Philip Davies MP
Generation Rent appoints new Director
Generation Rent announces today that director Alex Hilton is stepping down from his role. He will be leaving the organisation on Friday 15th May. Betsy Dillner, currently Community Campaigns Manager at Generation Rent, has been appointed Director in Alex’s place.
Demand a Queens Speech on Housing
The dust is settling after the General Election and the government finds itself with a new ministerial team and a precarious majority. None of the manifestos offered a coherent solution to the housing crisis, but Generation Rent is committed to making it a priority for the new government.
We have offered them a strategy which will jump-start the house building industry and create a fair deal for people renting. Our “Queen’s Speech on housing” is sponsored by CWU Youth, the youth network of the CWU Trade Union.
The housing crisis cannot be fixed without proper leadership, effective regulation, a commitment to wean the country off rising house prices and investment in public housing. Our demands include a position of Secretary of State for Housing, protections for tenants when their landlord wants to sell the property, and a system of rent control and tax on landlords which would raise money for a public house building programme.
Our proposals are published as a poll from Survation finds that 63% of private renters want to leave private renting in the next five years but only a third of those think it’s likely to happen. That means that out of the UK’s 4.75m private renter households, 1.95m find themselves stuck in an unsuitable tenure.
Want a decent place to live without robbing a bank?
Then ask your parliamentary candidates to support rent control
Looking for an affordable, stable place to live in London? Then you’ll have to move into the big house. Prison, that is.
Build to Rent: the answer to the housing crisis?
If the numbers add up for him next week, Ed Miliband will be Prime Minister and he will start attempting to reform the private rented sector with longer tenancies and rent stabilisation. We've already spotted holes in his plans that would undermine attempts to give renters better protections, but at least we support reform in principle. Most of the ire directed at Labour since they announced the policy is from those who oppose any form of regulation of rents.
Undermining unicorns: redefining affordable housing
Today's Guardian reports on Labour plans to redefine the word "affordable". It is a word that has caused much confusion and anger in housing circles since the current government reformed the grant system for social housing.
To be deemed affordable and thus qualify for state subsidy, new homes must be offered to tenants at a maximum of 80% of local market rents. To call this affordable betrays a staggering lack of awareness. In the real world, 80% is not much cheaper than the expensive rents set by the free market; it is not affordable to people on average incomes in expensive areas, let alone those on low incomes whom subsidised housing is supposed to prioritise.
What Labour's stamp duty 'holiday' really means
The latest announcement from Labour is that first-time buyers will be given a ‘holiday’ on stamp duty for homes purchased under £300,000. With the average house price in London standing at over £460,000 it is clear this policy will only be applicable outside of the capital.
We need a Robin Hood Tax for renters
It's great that Labour is looking at cutting tax breaks for bad private sector landlords, but they should be targeting them all.
Why Labour's rent cap won't make your rent cheaper
Sounds a bit strange to say this but it’s absolutely true, however, it will make your tenure more secure.
Labour’s proposal is to cap rent increases at inflation for the first three years of a tenancy. This doesn’t give you the ability to plan your finances – because you don’t know what the inflation rates will be over the next three years – but it is a long way from wild west situation we have today.
Reforming private renting and getting it right
Over on Landlord Law Blog, Tessa Shepperson has offered three warnings to politicians who are trying to tackle housing policy on their election campaigns.
In a nutshell, she notes the importance of housing to people’s health, wellbeing and life chances, highlights the lack of real information about the private rented sector and the actors within it, and the need to ensure it is not a bad investment.
The blog is really raising concerns about Labour’s proposals for the private rented sector: essentially rent stabilisation and longer term tenancies. These are both policies that Generation Rent is calling for – though we think Labour should go further. Tessa makes valid points about them and they merit a response.
What are the parties offering renters?
All five main UK-wide parties have now published their election manifestos. I took a trawl through them to dig out their plans for renters and the wider housing market.
An open letter to supporters of Homes for Britain
Today, we're very sad to say that we have to withdraw our support for the Homes for Britain campaign. The title's great but in reality we believe the strategy is so flawed that it has to date undermined the interests of people suffering the consequences of the housing crisis.
We're not suggesting anyone else leaves the coalition, but we are asking signatories to work with us on a more effective, loose campaigning network, and to influence Homes for Britain so that it advocates solutions to the housing crisis that are significantly more timely than within a generation.
Our letter to Homes for Britain supporters is below, but of course we have no such list. We'd be grateful if you could share this letter by email and social media. Anyone organisation that wants to participate in delivering material change, whether that be by asking a network for support or by offering it, or even simply keeping abreast, should email us at [email protected]
Thanks so much,
Director, Generation Rent
Does Eric Pickles know there's a housing crisis on?
Today's Financial Times (registration required) reports that the Department for Communities and Local Government has blocked nearly 10,000 new homes from being built since the start of 2015.
What on earth is the government playing at?
Join the demo against unethical Bristol letting agent!
You may have seen this letter going viral on Twitter:
Halifax Report: Generation Rent
Halifax’s annual Generation Rent report came out today, and the main finding is how renters are becoming resigned to their fate.
There were some positives with the highest number of first time buyers for 7 years, although we are a long way off the levels of half a million seen in 2002. However, there is little improvement in how potential first time buyer view their chances – with 79% of 20-45 year olds believing that banks don’t want to lend to first time buyers and 21% believing it is virtually impossible to obtain a mortgage.
East Village tenants face Olympic rent rises
Over the last 18 months renters and shared owners have been enticed to live in the East Village with the promise of being part of a new, exciting community. But for almost 400 households in "80% of market rate" intermediate rent, that dream is turning sour.
What to ask your Parliamentary Candidates
As the election campaign really kicks off, you will no doubt hear a knock on your door soon from one of your many Parliamentary candidates hoping to win your vote.
2015 - The General Election where English renters lose out?
Just a few days into the 2015 General Election campaign, and we are already in the midst of a confusing barrage of promises, photo-ops, accusations and counter-claims. Even to a hardened political observer, it is genuinely difficult to evaluate the statistics, date the political commitments or even work out who is saying what.
Renters left behind by attempts to fix the housing crisis
I am, among many things, a member of generation rent. With my A levels burning a hole in my back pocket I took the logical step out of my family home on the outskirts of Liverpool and took up residence at university. I moved into a three-storey halls of residence, which was heated by a gas oil burner that made all of my belongings smell of paraffin. "All your clothes stink", my mum would say whenever I came home, "even your laptop smells". I took no notice; all I could smell was freedom.
Private renters to get Right to Buy
The Conservatives' controversial Right to Buy policy will be extended to private renters, according to leaked plans from the Tory manifesto. That means private renters will have the right to buy their own home after living there for five years.
This is a big move from the Conservatives, who have been scrambling around for a vote-winning policy that will help the thwarted first-time buyer, with Help to Buy loans, Rent to Buy, and the latest Help to Buy ISA. But this policy - a reboot of the popular sell-off of council homes in the 80s - actually takes on the landlords.
The Government's record on private renting
As Parliament dissolves today and purdah begins, we’ve taken a look at everything the Government has, and hasn’t, done for renters.
The Cost of a First Time Home keeps rising
The latest House Price Index was released today and once again shows how first time buyers are being screwed over by the market.
House price inflation was up over this time last year, by 8.4%, although it was slightly down from last month (by a tiny 0.2%). One of the real worries is that for first time buyers, prices were 9.7% higher on average this January compared to last January – and 0.7% up on the month.
George Osborne pledges right to sub-let
Amid the fanfare of the Help to Buy ISA in last week's Budget, the Chancellor made another, quieter move to help renters. George Osborne pledged to legislate to stop tenants automatically being banned in their contracts from sub-letting space in their home on a short-term basis.
This move follows changes in the Deregulation Bill to allow Londoners to rent out their homes for short periods without needing planning permission - previously anyone in the capital advertising holiday lets on sites such as Airbnb was breaking the law.