#ELLHousingCrisis: Why are the Greens the only major party committing to rent control in the General Election?

Charlotte George, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Hackney South and Shoreditch. Pic: Green Party

Charlotte George, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Hackney South and Shoreditch. Pic: Green Party

The Green Party is the only party in Britain to officially commit to a housing policy of rent control.

As part of the party’s bid to provide “secure, affordable housing for all”, the Greens long ago committed to a policy of capping rents and introducing longer tenancies – whereby renters will be afforded greater protection, not having to commit to contracts that offer only a year of secure tenancy.

In an interview with Eastlondonlines, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett argued that she fundamentally believes in “access to resources for a decent quality of life – that means without fear or worry or concern about food on the table and a roof over your head.” For the Greens, the only policy that can fully guarantee this for the UK population is setting accommodation prices.

Rent control would mean that instead of leases being settled by landlord and tenant, they would instead be set by an outside authority, such as the local council. Under a Labour Government in the 1970s, rent was set by council officers under the 1974 Rent Act.

Charlotte George, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Hackney South and Shoreditch, told ELL that high rents and soaring house prices had created a huge gap in wealth equality which she admitted made her feel “really uncomfortable”.

Rent controls, she argues, would allow Londoners to once again view their city as a place to bring up their children, with greater guarantees for the long-term future of family homes in the capital.

Where all politicians are in agreement that something must be done to tackle the serious shortage of housing in London, with all parties  proposing to build at least 200,000 homes in the country during the next parliament. However it is only the Green Party that is offering a policy to prevent rent prices reaching their current levels. Renters in London can expect to use nearly half of their income on rent.

Division in Labour ranks over fully committing to a policy on rent control can be seen in the fact that there is no mention of the policy in the party’s pre-election pledges, yet Ed Milliband has committed to the capping of rent increases – an important distinction from setting the price of housing in the capital.

A poll commissioned by the campaigning organisation Generation Rent back in January revealed that 60 per cent of respondents are in favour of introducing regulation back into the market, which was deregulated by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

In another poll by Survation, nearly 60 per cent were also in favour of some form of rent control.

Yet although statistics strongly suggest that introducing rent controls would be an election pleaser to the 9 million who class themselves as  “generation renters”, a deregulated renting sector is seen as the hallmark of the free-market economy and is likely to alienate the more than 1 million  buy-to-let landlords in the UK.

Indeed, when Labour published its proposals to reform the sector – including introducing three-year tenancy agreements and capping rent increases with the bar set by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – they were denounced as “reds-under-the-beds” by the Conservatives who fear rent controls will take away the individual’s property rights and deter landlords or would-be landlords.

 

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