Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York

Funding at a glance

Programme: Transforming the Private Rented Sector
Amount: £201,971
Approved: 2016
Timescale: 18 months

An authoritative and seminal review into the private rented sector, as well as research into the extent to which the private rented sector meets the housing needs of tenants who are vulnerable to harm.


Why we are funding this project

To enable service providers and policymakers to make effective and informed decisions about ways to deliver decent, affordable housing in the private rented sector, based on comprehensive and up-to-date information of who is living in the sector.

Strategic purpose

More robust evidence of the solutions to address the issues of cost, quality, security and access in the private rented sector is available and used to inform policy and practice.

Project description

The Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York carried out an independent, comprehensive and seminal review of the private rented sector in England, The Evolving Private Rented Sector: its Contribution and Potential.

The sector has been growing in size and influence over the last 10 years and the University of York’s review provides evidence and analysis of these changes, as well as recommendations for developing a strategic framework for the whole of the private rented sector to be better managed.

The Evolving Private Rented Sector: its Contribution and Potential looks at:

  • Supply: analysis of the role and make up of landlords, institutional investment into the private rented sector, the role of letting agents and interventions by local authorities and housing associations
  • Demand: the role of renting in housing biographies, the dynamics of demand, and demand sub-groups, including looking at the characteristics of different types of renters
  • Geographies of renting: regional variations in the private rented sector and the distribution of problems
  • Policy interventions: analysis of financial and policy interventions
  • The regulatory framework, including looking at property quality, housing management, security of tenure, redress and enforcement
  • Meeting the needs of low income renters: affordability, the impact of welfare reform and mediated tenancies

The review recommends:

  • An overarching strategy for the private rented sector should be developed. This strategy needs to be evidence-based and devised through an extended programme of consensus-building amongst a wide range of policy stakeholders
  • A new regulatory framework for the private rented sector, which includes a combined national landlord and letting agent register that is compulsory to join. In addition, all properties used as a HMOs (house in multiple occupation) will still need to be registered with the local authority
  • All properties should be required to be fit for letting: a ‘Property MOT’ certificate will indicate that the property has passed an independent annual inspection to meet a minimum standard and this will wrap up all existing requirements such as gas and electrical safety
  • A comprehensive review of access to housing justice
  • Government should undertake a review of how to best meet the housing needs of low-income tenants, as welfare reform is undermining the bottom end of the private rented sector

In addition to the review, a separate piece of research, Vulnerability Amongst Low-Income Households in the Private Rented Sector in England was carried out by the same academic team. This report aims to understand the incidence of vulnerability in the private rented sector and focuses on households in the bottom one third of incomes whose circumstances make them particularly vulnerable. These households include either dependent children, a migrant or someone who is living with a disability, in receipt of benefits, aged over 65 or on an unreliable low income.

The harms considered by this report were: property standards, overcrowding and poverty. 86% (rising to 97% in London) of the vulnerable private rented sector households had at least one of the three problems, which equates to 33% of the sector as a whole. The biggest problem faced was poverty.

The report also found that the proportion of households in the private rented sector with dependent children has grown and this growth has principally been amongst younger families containing babies or children under the age of five.

The Evolving Private Rented Sector: its Contribution and Potential and Vulnerability Amongst Low-Income Households in the Private Rented Sector in England were both written by Julie Rugg and David Rhodes from the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York and were published in September 2018.

Centre for Housing Policy

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