I recently wrote to the representatives of the main political parties in Brighton and Hove regarding Generation Rent, asking what they and their political parties would be offering renters after 2015 on issues including high rents, insecure tenancies, and poor practice by some landlords and, in particular, letting agencies. I am posting all responses received, in the order I have received them. Today, the response from Caroline Lucas MP, Green, Brighton Pavilion
Many thanks for your email and for raising such important questions about housing in our city with me.
Over a quarter of all housing in Brighton is in the private rental sector – that’s almost double the national average. Growing numbers of people have to rent, and they shouldn’t have to put up with damp, leaky homes, or worry about sudden rent increases when their short-term tenancies expire. That’s especially important at a time when household budgets are so stretched.
Nationally, a third of people in rented homes are families with children. They are hit particularly hard by the uncertainty that comes from an unstable market. One in ten families in rental accommodation has had to change schools, with all the stress and disruption that can cause to children.
Everyone has a right to adequate housing and we need radical reform to ensure all tenants are treated fairly. That’s what I’ve been standing up for since being elected as MP for Brighton Pavilion.
I know from my MP surgeries, and from being out and about in the city talking to residents, that housing is a key issue for those living in the city. I hear very similar stories to those you do – about high rents, insecure tenancies, and poor practice by some landlords, especially letting agencies.
So I am taking concrete action to address these concerns including:
– on smart rent controls. I am campaigning for caps like they have in France and Germany where rent can’t rise faster than inflation guaranteeing fairness and predictability for tenants and landlords. We cannot go on pricing people out of making Brighton and Hove their home – it’s not good for our local economy and it’s not good for our communities.
– on improving housing standards. I am calling for a national register of landlords, alongside regulation of managing and letting agents. This is something on which successive Governments have failed to take action, so back in June 2012 I introduced my own Bill in Parliament on landlord accreditation. The Bill required local authorities to follow the lead shown in Brighton and Hove and operate landlord accreditation schemes that meet minimum standards. I worked with landlords – as you say most of those in the city want to do the right thing – as well as tenants groups on this, and have campaigned for the Government to set up an online ratings website for private renters to provide feedback on the conduct of their landlords, both good and bad. Lots of private renters in the city are students and I know from my work on our campuses that poor quality housing is a real problem for them as well as other tenants. So I am at the forefront of the campaign to introduce mandatory minimum energy efficiency standards for private rented homes, including chairing a parliamentary group that’s demanding a better deal for tenants and an end to cold damp homes.
– on security of tenure in the private rented sector. This would go a long way towards redressing the power imbalance between landlords and tenants and I am campaigning for long, 5 and 10 year tenancies, to give renters the opportunity to build a life in our city and so a rented flat or house can truly become a home. That’s included lobbying Ministers and backing a parliamentary motion.
There’s also a need to tackle the problem of supply, because the lack of affordable housing is a major factor in pushing up rents in the private rented sector. So I’ve called for councils to be allowed to borrow enough money to invest in a mass programme of sustainable council housing. I’ve spoken out in Parliament about the poor track record of successive governments when it comes to getting new homes built. And I’ve demanded that the rules around bringing empty homes back into use be changed to make it much easier.
Thank you for the amazing work that BHT does locally to help tackle some of the problems that have arisen from decades of poor investment in affordable housing, coupled with attacks like the bedroom tax which was introduced for the private sector first and then rolled out further by this Government. If your clients or anyone reading your blog want to get in touch to share their experiences and make sure the Government is sent a clear message about what’s wrong with its policies, they can get in touch by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope my track record shows I am committed to standing up for Brighton Pavilion on the important issue of housing and I’ll continue to fight for private renters – and for everyone that sees our city as their home – for as long as I have the honour of being an MP.