New housing strategy to focus on rental market

The government plans to publish a new housing white paper this week, which will place greater emphasis on the UK’s rental market addressing the issues of affordability currently experienced by many people who rent.

In what Housing Minister Gavin Barwell has said would be a ‘change of tone’ from previous Conservative policies, the new housing strategy promises minimum rental tenancies and an increase in homes that are built specifically to rent.

The White Paper, which is to lay out the new package of measures, is expected to be published on Tuesday.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Gavin Barwell explained that this new set of measures will promote investment in the building of homes for affordable rent and that councils would be encourage to play a larger part in the process. Barwell defined affordable rent as being at least 20% below market rate.

Previously the government has also said that English letting agents will no longer be allowed to charge fees to tenants.

While Barwell told BBC viewers that the government still stands by its general election manifesto that ‘everyone who works hard should be able to afford their own home’, he said that the government now has ‘something to say’ to those people who are renting and facing increasing costs.

Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Neil, Gavin Barwell said:

"Whether you're trying to buy or you're trying to rent, housing in this country has become less and less affordable because for 30- or 40-years governments have not built enough homes and this White Paper is fundamentally trying to do something about that."

There are approximately 4.3 million tenants living in the private rental market today.

The announcement was welcomed by both the House Builders Association and the National Housing Federation.

Rico Wojtulewicz of the House Builders' Association said that if small and medium-sized house builders are given the right support, “you get the right type of houses in the right type of areas.”

"Concentrating too much on volume house-building, as we've seen in the last decade, is problematic - not just for supply, but the type of supply," he said.

Rob Warm from the National Housing Federation described the service that people experience in the private rental sector as "very poor" and "insecure".

"I think those people deserve better and what government is saying today shows that they think these people deserve better as well," he said.

Gavin Barwell also explained to the BBC that in addition to the Help to Buy and other schemes, which should continue, the government is promising more help for those people who cannot afford to own, or prefer to rent - by way of reducing rents and extending the length of tenancy agreements.

In order to allow more houses to be built for rent, planning rules will be amended and developers will be given the option to offer cheaper rents in lieu of their affordable home obligations.

Addressing the fact that the number of affordable new homes is at a 24-year low, Barwell explained that this is because the figures come at the start of a new five year programme, and he held firm on the government’s commitment to build one million homes in England by 2020.

He also said that the government aims to achieve this without making any changes to its current green belt policy, dismissing any claims that it can only fix the ‘broken housing market by taking huge swathes out of the green belt’ as untrue.

In response, Labour has called for investment in council housing and regulation of the private rented sector, saying that the government’s current proposals are insufficient.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party said:

"The private rented market is incapable of dealing with demand, incapable of giving people the security they need, and particularly in our major cities, it is so expensive that it means many poorer, middle-income, working-class families are getting moved out."




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