Budget 2015: what does it deliver for renters?
In short, not much. It took 40 minutes for the first mention of housing, behind an announcement of £1million to celebrate the 600 year anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt no less. As well as expected announcements on funding for a London land commission to address ‘the acute housing crisis’ and the 20 housing zones due to be launched to boost house building, there was a surprise announcement of a ‘Help to Buy ISA’.
A lifeline for first time renters
Yesterday's Homes for Britain rally in Westminster attracted speakers across the spectrum, from Cathy Come Home director Ken Loach to UKIP's Nigel Farage. Amid the rhetorical fireworks was a small but important policy announcement which might have passed some people by.
The Liberal Democrat speaker, Ed Davey MP, said his party would offer government-backed loans to first-time renters under the age of 30 to cover the up-front costs of a tenancy. Generation Rent has been urging the government to adopt this policy since last year - it is already being offered to civil servants.
Landlord Licensing – giving with one hand, taking with the other.
It was announced this week that the Government was protecting tenants by improving fire safety regulations in the private rented sector. However, at the same time they are making it more difficult for councils to introduce borough-wide landlord licensing that help to protect tenants from rogue landlords
Fire Fire! New safety regulations to protect tenants!
There has been some positive news for renters for a change! It was announced by the Minister for Fire Resilience and Emergencies, Penny Mordaunt, at the Local Government Association fire conference, that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are to become mandatory in all privately rented accommodation. These life-saving regulations will be laid before Parliament and will require all private sector landlords to install smoke alarms on each storey of their property, carbon monoxide alarms in the rooms considered most at risk from high levels of carbon monoxide and to check the alarms are in working order at the start of any new tenancy.
The reality of Labour's housing policy
Labour has carefully crafted an identity this election as the party of housing. But if you look at the details, what they’re proposing is terrifying for the average person.
By Lindsey Garrett of the New Era Estate
A new look for Parliament
Here's an idea that will save taxpayers money, help build houses in London and give a disadvantaged northern economy a welcome boost.
Move Parliament to Hull and convert the empty buildings into flats.
Renters at higher risk of mental health problems
Renters are 75% more likely to experience serious anxiety and depression than home-owners, according to a Survation poll commissioned by Generation Rent which we are publishing today. Nearly two in five people who rent their home say they have experienced serious anxiety or depression in the past year. One in five (21%) homeowners reported similar experiences.
What Natalie Bennett should have said
It was hard yesterday not to have some sympathy with Green Party leader Natalie Bennett after that painful interview. But coming unstuck on the numbers or not, it highlighted the point that they are the only party with a shot of winning seats (in England at least) that actually has a target for building significant numbers of social homes and which has identified private sector landlords as the ideal source for funding this.
English Housing Survey shows things are bad for renters – is anyone surprised anymore?
Quiz your local candidates on housing - organise a hustings!
We're less than three months away from the General Election, and voters still haven't made up their minds about which party has the best policies to fix the housing crisis.
Do your part to help your friends and neighbours reach a decision by organising a Housing Hustings.
Fundraising Internship with Generation Rent
We currently have a fantastic opportunity for the right person with Generation Rent, helping us raise funds for the vital campaigning and community organising work that we do.
Is Government covering up the housing crisis by cutting the English Housing Survey?
The Department for Communities and Local Government is currently consulting on how they can scale back the English Housing Survey, effectively sweeping the housing crisis under the carpet.
The EHS is a continuous survey that provides an annual and comprehensive data set on the stock conditions of housing in this country and the nature of our housing market, measuring characteristics like tenure for example.
Calling all renters in Hackney!
Do you rent from a private landlord in Hackney? If so, this blog post is for you! Hackney Council are currently conducting a consultation into the private rented sector in Hackney, reviewing their offer of services for tenants and landlords. As part of this, the council is considering whether a discretionary licensing scheme might be introduced.
Rent Freedom Day - videos now up
If you couldn't make it to Rent Freedom Day, we have the next best thing - video of two of the biggest events on the schedule: the opening speech from journalist, author and fresh-faced firebrand Owen Jones (20 mins), and the National Renters Hustings (1h15m).
MPs from four main parties came together for the first time in the real world to debate renting and face questions from the public. Conservative Mark Pawsey, Labour's Emma Reynolds, Lib Dem Minister Stephen Williams and the Greens' Caroline Lucas all bravely faced an audience that has long been overlooked by politicians and wants answers. UKIP was invited but didn't send anyone.
Making money like a landlord
Inspired by Savills' findings on landlord capital gains last month, we decided to look at just what sort of money landlords in the UK are making – and how much we the taxpayer are helping them.
As reported in the Guardian this morning, UK landlords make £77.7bn each year in rent and capital gains. This is more than Morocco’s GDP of £68.6bn (for a country of 33m people), making the industry the 61st largest economy in the world (UN 2013).
They are also subsidised to the tune of £26.7bn in tax breaks and housing benefit. That is higher than the £25bn of cuts that George Osborne claims are needed after the election. It is also more than our spending on the overseas aid budget of £10.3bn, job seekers allowance of £4.34bn, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s entire budget of £6.14bn, and the £1.13bn Affordable Homes Programme put together.
The cost of landlord subsidies to Britons is £1011 per household. That is the cost of a week’s holiday for four in Majorca, a 55” HD TV, or a Boardman Road Team Carbon bike.
Ending fuel poverty for private renters – where we are and where we need to go
Yesterday the Department for Energy and Climate Change finally laid down regulations arising from the 2013 Energy Act which seek to drive up energy efficiency in the private rented sector and bring down fuel poverty as a result.
On Rent Freedom Day, poll shows scale of housing crisis
As hundreds of renters gathered in Westminster yesterday to take part in Rent Freedom Day, a new poll we commissioned from Survation revealed how big an impact housing could have on the election - if politicians made it a priority.
Almost two fifths of voters (38%) would back a party that made housing one of its top three priorities, the poll found. It also revealed that the housing crisis is now affecting a majority of Britons, with 57% saying they, or someone they know, is struggling to buy or rent a suitable home.
Half (50%) of private renters are struggling to buy, while 43% say they are struggling to rent a suitable home, indicating that their current situation is difficult to live with.
A third of home owners (35%) say they know someone who is struggling to buy, which shows that many of those with the security of their own home are aware that there is a problem.
Rent control could swing the vote in Scotland
The outcome of the General Election looks increasingly likely to be determined by the party who wins most seats in Scotland: Labour or the Scottish Nationalists. Some new polling from Survation suggests that a rent control policy could be the deciding factor.
When asked what effect a political party proposing rent control in their manifesto would have on voting intentions at the May General Election, 25% of Scots said it would make them more likely to vote for that party. Only 5% say they would be less likely to vote for a party that offered rent control.
Private renters – What choice(s) do we have?
Hannah Fearn recently focused on the Residental Landlords’ Association’s call to politicians to back regulations they feel will increase properties and raise standards in the PRS. All parties are urged in this election year to support this sector which the RLA feels has the potential to become ‘a first choice for those seeking a place to live’. Hannah points out that far from making an active ‘choice’ about their tenure, private renters of 2015 feel ‘trapped’ and optionless.
Britain backs rent controls nine to one as housing costs soar
An exclusive poll for tenants’ campaign Generation Rent published today shows that Britain overwhelmingly backs the return of rent controls. The poll by Survation of 1,009 people on 18th and 19th December shows that 59% of people back rent controls and only 6.8% of people oppose them. 34% had no opinion. That’s one person opposing the measure for every 9 people who support it.
Is your landlord safe?
A new national database, naming private landlords who have been convicted of safety breaches has been created by our friends over at Environmental Health News, the magazine of the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health’s magazine. This follows a ruling by the information commissioner that the Ministry of Justice must release its list of property firm convicted under the Housing Act 2004 – initially the MOJ refused.
Amazing job opportunity at the National CLT Network
We want to tell you about an amazing job opportunity for a Programme Manager that has just come up over at our friends, the National Community Land Trust Network.
House prices remain as high as ever
Today the ONS released its latest House Price Index, showing UK house price inflation to the end of October 2014. Really, not much has changed. Whilst inflation has slowed a miniscule amount, falling from 12.1% in the year to September to 10.4% in the year to October, this is still a worryingly high figure for those struggling to buy their first home. Indeed, once seasonal adjustments have been taken into account, inflation has actually risen by 0.1%.
A new tool that makes housesharing that little more bearable
Our friends at Splittable have launched a new free tool for renters – CEO Nick Katz explains
It's December...Rising Rents & Increased Homeless
Rising Rents & Increased Homelessness
Today there have been a range of statistics released on the private rented sector, mortgage lending and homelessness which confirm a fairly gloomy picture for those stuck privately renting.
Controlling rents: A response to the private renting affordability crisis
Today Generation Rent has published a proposal for a flexible rent control policy, aimed first at London but applicable to anywhere where the rent is too high. Diane Abbott MP has kindly written the foreword.
Stamp Duty reform, but nothing for renters
George Osborne's final Autumn Statement before the General Election has been trailed across the media since Sunday, including announcements about housebuilding as part of the National Infrastructure Plan. A lot of this - including the garden city in Bicester - is fairly old news, but it's interesting that the government is planning to get directly involved in building houses - 10,000 of them just outside Cambridge.
The Treasury might want to use this as an opportunity to try out Generation Rent's proposed model of a bubble-free housing market - we estimate that it would cost £1bn to build 10,000 homes, sell them at little over cost-price and plough the proceeds into another 10,000 home project. Those new houses would be shielded from any above-inflation price rises.
When it came to the Statement itself, earlier this afternoon, Osborne had very little to offer those who want cheaper housing. His big announcement, which is bound to dominate tomorrow's front pages, was the reform of stamp duty.
ONS: costs for renters keep rising
The ONS has today released its Family Spending statistics up to the end of 2013. These show that families’ weekly expenditure has begun to increase, following a steady decline since 2006, although levels of spending still remain lower than those of 2006 once inflation has been taken into account. The decrease was due to families cutting back on non-essential items following the recession. This increase can be attributed to rising housing and transport costs, forcing families to find money to cover their basic needs.
Immigration checks: a pointless tax on tenants
New checks to prevent undocumented immigrants from renting homes risk come into force in parts of the West Midlands today. Under the Immigration Act 2014, landlords are required to check the immigration status of all prospective tenants.
This is an awful policy that will cost renters and benefit no one:
- With no government funding for this, added administration costs may simply be passed on to renters through extra letting agent fees or higher rents.
- Far from preventing undocumented immigrants from finding a home, the policy will see already vulnerable tenants forced into illegal tenancies and poor housing conditions.
- The checks also put more than 1m families at risk of being discriminated against by landlords and letting agents.
- It will exacerbate problems already faced by many international workers and students with paperwork complications, especially in flatshare situations. This could also have the unintended effect of discrimination in choosing housemates for flatshares
- This in no way targets rogue landlords as the Home Office claims, but targets both migrants and undocumented UK citizens while increasing the xenophobia that is already on the rise and reducing community cohesion.
Tenancies (Reform) Bill talked out
Five hours is a long time in politics. But not too long if you deliberately want to block a measure that would benefit millions of private renters.
Earlier today, despite overwhelming support from MPs in all parties, the Tenancies (Reform) Bill was not voted on after backbench Conservative MPs (and landlords) Philip Davies and Christopher Chope spoke for hours ad nauseum to stop its passage.
Renters howl for housing outside Parliament
More than 50 private renters demonstrated last night against the spate of revenge evictions that are taking place against tenants with the temerity to request safe and healthy living conditions.
Armed with placards, demonstrators descended on Westminster to push MPs to ban eviction of tenants when the House of Commons debates Sarah Teather's Tenancies (Reform) Bill on Friday.
GMB Young London organised the demo, which brought together Renters Rights London, PricedOut, Hackney Digs, Brent Advice for Renters and Generation Rent. MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell took time out from the chamber to give us their support.
One more chance to ban letting fees
The issue of lettings agent fees is back in parliament next week with an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill that would make it an offence to charge fees to tenants.
Don't charge me if I need my bills on paper
Next week in the House of Lords, Peers will debate an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill that would ensure people have a choice in how they receive their utility bills and bank statements - enabling people to choose paper bills if that's best for them. The amendment, tabled by Conservative Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes, aims to place a duty on suppliers of utilities, including electricity, gas, water, telephone and internet connections.
Housing costs hitting young workers the hardest
On Saturday our director Alex spoke at the Trade Union Congress's Big Youth Debate, where he outlined the findings of a joint survey of 18-35 year olds that Generation Rent conducted with the TUC. We found that most young renters are living in unaffordable housing, while a third of young mortgage holders are being stretched.
The full details are below:
Council crackdown on shanty town
The London Borough of Islington has fined a landlord £280,000 for defying orders to rip down insubstantial housing built without permission in an outbuilding.
It's good to see a London council getting tough on landlords who flout planning law to the detriment of their tenants. Too often we see local authorities not taking action when there is a breach of planning law, or being thwarted by the four-year dwelling rule which exempts the landlord if the dwelling has been continuously occupied for four years.
Islington Council has shown that you can forcefully take on those who are ignoring planning regulations with the right political will. This is as much an issue of ensuring that tenants live in decent, spacious and well-kept properties as it is simply a planning dispute and Islington has recognised this in the work it is doing in the private rented sector.
And that colossal fine could go towards building some real houses.
Renters' power is growing - don’t let Parliament ignore you
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
Beyond the bubble
I'm very pleased to be delivering the MSc Sustainable Urban Development public lecture for Oxford University and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors on 7th November.
I'll be exploring the failure of the housing market, the threat it poses to the economy and how a secondary, cost price housing market can fix the problem.
Not only is everyone welcome but it's also free to attend. I hoe you will come along and heckle wittily. But please do rsvp to David Howard at [email protected]
Evicted for trying to help
Michael James has been living in his flat in Tower Hamlets, East London, for 24 years. The building he lives in is getting on a bit and when he found a loose piece of concrete on the walkway, which could have fallen off and hurt children playing below, he asked his landlord to fix it. When this request fell on deaf ears, he went to the council.
(image from ITV London News)
When the landlord found out, Michael received an eviction notice. Tower Hamlets Renters has been helping Michael to fight the eviction and thankfully he is still there.
London needs homes, not ‘investments’
As the latest House Price Index reveals an annual increase of 19.6% in the cost of London homes, the MIPIM property fair rolls into the capital tomorrow. MIPIM is a forum focused on international investment in housing, which brings together tens of thousands of investors, property developers, politicians and landlords to discuss how best to make huge amounts of money from housing in cities across the world.
A chance to protect tenants
Raising two young sons on her own, Venice Allan did not need extra worries about her housing situation.
"The flat we were in was in the basement and it was damp. After a few months black mould started to appear on the walls. That was bad enough for my sons' health but then we discovered a live wire that needed fixing.
Help ban revenge evictions
Have you ever delayed getting a landlord to maintain your home because it's not worth the bother? Have you ever felt they'll just string you along or worse, evict you as a trouble maker? Well that could soon be over.
MP Sarah Teather has tabled a Private Member's Bill in Parliament that will outlaw so-called revenge evictions.
The truth is that only the worst landlords will boot a tenant over a maintenance issue, but you don't know if you're one of the unlucky ones until you make that complaint. The behaviour of a small number of dodgy landlords creates a very real fear for millions of tenants.
Write to your MP now to demand they support this Bill
Private renters suffer cold, damp and mouldy homes
Richard Kay is Communications Manager at the Energy Saving Trust, an organisation helping householders, governments, businesses and organisations save energy every day.
Tenants find it harder to heat their homes than owner occupiers and are the most concerned about their energy bills, according to research from the Energy Saving Trust.
Living in a home that is easy-to-heat, and free of damp and mould should be a basic right, yet it is estimated that there are 400,000 privately rented homes in England with an F or G energy performance rating – almost the same number of households in Birmingham. As winter approaches Caroline Flint’s declaration of war on cold homes couldn’t be more welcome.
Last week we revealed that many private renters are living in damp, cold and mouldy properties, with no expectation their landlord will pay for home improvements after our public opinion tracker UK Pulse also finding that renters are more concerned about their energy bills compared to owner occupiers. In light of these findings, we are urging landlords to look at ways they can improve the EPC rating of their properties.
Labour's housing manifesto takes shape
Alex Hilton presented Emma Reynolds with a box of chocolates when they sat down to talk housing at our event with SHOUT last night. It was in recognition of Labour's work so far on making renting less of the waking nightmare it currently is - but not anything fancy - just Milk Tray, this time. There is still a lot we want from the next government.
Conference season begins, and we're in the thick of it
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.