Whatever else we’re concerned with, we’re all concerned about the sorry state of renting. Although Theresa May keeps trying to convince us that the election on Thursday is all about Brexit, it isn’t only about Brexit. As well as the future of NHS, housing issues are high on the agenda and all the parties have made manifesto pledges for renters.
Labour manifesto (launched Tue 16 May) pledges include
- An inflation cap on rent rises
- To make new, three year tenancies, the norm
- To legislate to ban renters’ liability for paying letting agents’ fees
- To introduce new legal minimum standards to ensure properties are ‘fit for human habitation’ and
- To empower tenants to take action if a rented home is sub-standard
- To create a Department for Housing to tackle the housing crisis – giving councils the powers to “build the homes local communities need”.
- To build “over a million” new homes, of which, no fewer than 100,000 each year would be homes for genuinely affordable rent, via councils or housing associations.
- To ditch the Conservatives’ ban on long-term council tenancies
- Suspension of ‘the right to buy’ council and housing association homes, which has already reduced publicly-owned stock by more than 1.5 million units, leaving families with nowhere to go but the PRS.
Acknowledging “the particular pressures in London”, Labour will look at giving the Mayor new powers to give renters in London additional security.
Underlining that street homelessness has doubled since 2010, Labour pledges
- 4,000 additional homes to be reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping and that
- Labour “will take action to tackle the root causes of homelessness”, including “safeguarding homeless hostels and other supported housing from crude Conservative cuts to housing benefit”.
Lib Dem manifesto (launched Wed 17 May) pledges include
- Banning lettings fees for tenants
- A cap on upfront deposits and
- Longer tenancies of three years or more, with inflation-linked annual rent increase built in.
- To restore housing benefit to young people.
- To allow tenants access to the database of ‘rogue’ landlords and property agents
- Introduction of mandatory licensing, to improve protections against bad landlords and allow access for tenants to the Database of Rogue Landlords and Letting Agents.
- To increase support for homelessness prevention, with adequate funding of age-appropriate emergency accommodation, while ensuring that all local authorities have at least one provider of the Housing First model for entrenched homeless people.
- To establish a government-backed tenancy deposit loans ‘Help to Rent’ scheme, accessible to all first-time renters under 30.
There’s also mention of giving tenants first refusal to buy the home they are renting at market rate, if the landlord decides to sell during the tenancy.
The rent-to-own initiative is one of the Lib Dem’s flagship policies. Rent payments would give tenants an increasing stake in the property, who would then own it outright after 30 years
Conservative manifesto (launched Thu 18 May)
As Prime Minister Theresa May ruled out a snap election five times before she called this one, it’s hard (for me) to believe the Conservative manifesto. However, the Conservative manifesto promises
- To end tenants’ liability for letting agents’ fees
- To investigate and prosecute private landlords who discriminate on the basis of ethnicity [see JCWI appeal].
- Reaffirms their commitment to complete the 2015 promise of a million new homes by 2020, and then, to build another half a million by the end of 2022.
- To combat homelessness until rough sleeping is eliminated in 2027, using the housing first model, which starts from acknowledgement that housing is a human right.
- The Conservative manifesto further promises that they will be “looking at how we increase security for good tenants.” (my italics). Without knowing how good we have be and to whom, “good” seems at odds with this new commitment to housing as a human right.
The ‘Homes for All’ section ends with the Conservatives promise
- to “continue to support those struggling to buy or rent a home, including those living in a home owned by a housing association”.
After withdrawal of housing benefit for everyone under the age of 21 and the cap on housing allowance at a level which has already increased homelessness, it’s hard to welcome this promise “to continue”.
Green Party (launched Mon 22 May) pledges include
- A living rent for all through rent controls and more secure tenancies for private renters
- An end to letting tenants’ liability for agents’ fees
- Introduction of mandatory licensing for all landlords.
- Support for the development of renters’ unions.
- A major programme to build affordable, zero carbon homes, including 100,000 social rented homes each year by 2022.
- To scrap the ‘right to buy’ council and housing association-owned homes at discounted prices.
- To bring empty homes back into use
- To trial a Land Value Tax, to encourage the use of vacant land and reduce speculation.
- To reverse housing benefits cuts and to protect young people’s housing needs by reinstating housing benefit for renters aged under 21.
- To stop declaring people as ‘intentionally homeless’ and to give Local Authorities the same duties towards single people and childless couples as to families.
- To axe buy-to-let tax breaks
- To back community-led approaches to building affordable homes.
- To improve housing choice for disabled people and older people by requiring all councils to appropriately plan for their housing needs and significantly increase the numbers of homes built to lifetime home and mobility standards over the next 5 years.
If you have a vote in this election, please don’t waste it by staying away.
You don’t even have to take your polling card with you on the day. If you’re eligible to vote, you can just turn up.
Polling stations open at 7am and you can vote anytime before 10pm.
If you aren’t sure where to go to vote, find your polling station using your postcode.
Sign up to receive future newsletters from Renters’ Rights London to your inbox.