New ideas added to the debate about how to improve the private rented sector

The issue of how to improve the living conditions of private rented sector tenants has risen up the political agenda in recent months. Nine million people in England rent from a private landlord (two million in London) and commonly experienced problems are unaffordable rental costs, instability of tenure, poor and even unsafe living conditions.

Generation Rent - the only national, charitable organisation exclusively helping private tenants - has received a three-year grant of £725,000 from the Nationwide Foundation. This funding has been given as part of the Nationwide Foundation's Decent, Affordable Homes strategy, one of the outcomes for the strategy is that the living conditions of private rented tenants improve. The Nationwide Foundation recognises that some tenants in the private rented sector are vulnerable and that until the emergence of Generation Rent there was no national organisation campaigning for their rights. The funding from the Nationwide Foundation enables Generation Rent to focus on two priorities: supporting existing tenants' groups and encouraging new ones to set up; and campaigning for improved living conditions for tenants.

Therefore the Nationwide Foundation is pleased that Generation Rent is this week launching its Renters' Manifesto which will fuel the debate about how to improve the living conditions in PRS. Generation Rent's new proposals urge politicians and policymakers to focus on this key housing issue.

The ideas Generation Rent is proposing are:

  1. The next government should create a new department with a remit to fix the housing crisis and save the taxpayer billions. Generation Rent says that the problem of unaffordable housing will never be solved when three departments are responsible for different parts of the housing sector, and the minister for housing is on the lowest rung of the ministerial ladder. A Secretary of State for Housing would bring house building, housing benefit, construction and building regulations under one roof and ensure that public money is used more effectively.
  2. A new secondary housing market should be developed that allows buyers to opt-out of rising house prices and which could end the housing crisis. This campaign is calling for the government to build houses that can only be sold on for a limited increase in price, which would deter speculators and ensure that people could buy a house for little more than what it cost to build. This alternative to the free market would help people on ordinary incomes who are priced out of the open market to access home ownership, and boost the availability of genuinely affordable rented housing.
  3. The right to a five year tenancy, which would give tenants greater confidence in dealing with their landlord and planning their finances and family life.Generation Rent says that tenants currently have little security in their home, no protection from rent increases and few rights to seek home repairs and improvements. Tenants typically have contracts of 12 months, and landlords have the right to serve eviction without giving a reason. More than a third of private rented homes suffer from hazards to health and safety. Shelter has found that 213,000 renters were evicted last year after complaining about poor conditions.

The Nationwide Foundation supports Generation Rent's exploration of alternative and emerging solutions to the difficulties facing vulnerable tenants in the private rented sector. Political discussions ahead of the General Election could lead to pledges from the key parties on how they will seek to address the problems surrounding this aspect of housing policy.

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