Labour proposes “radical” housing reform

Shadow housing secretary John Healy has stated that a Labour government would proceed with a series of “radical” moves in the housing market, including the introduction of a renters’ union and a levy on holiday homes.

In a speech given at the Labour party conference today, Healy said that “the next Labour government will be the most radical government on housing since that great Labour government after the [second world] war. And we will do whatever it takes to fix this country’s housing crisis.

“We’ll control rents, end no-fault evictions, and put a stop to the tyranny of rogue landlords,” he said, suggesting an eradication of Section 21 before adding that the Labour party would “legislate for new rights for renters to control their rents, improve conditions, [and] increase security.”

Because “we know our rights are worthless when we can’t enforce them,” Healy said, this would be accomplished through the formation of new renters’ unions, which Labour would “fund in every part of the country… so that renters who feel helpless in the face of a housing crisis can organise and defend their rights.”

Regarding a levy on holiday homes, Healy spoke of a gap between the “home-haves and the home-have-nots,” saying that “the next labour government will strike a blow against housing inequality with a new national levy on second homes used as holiday homes to give homeless families the chance of their first home.”

There was also some talk of Labour proceeding with a house building plan. Halfway through his speech, Healy mentioned “living rent homes,” where rents would be set at a third of average local incomes, and “new low-cost homes to buy,” this time with mortgage costs set at a third of average local incomes. However, no further details on these ideas were given at the time.

The National Landlords Association says that it “welcomes plans for the introduction of renters’ unions, as networks that support and inform tenants with consistent advice will promote good practice in the sector and help make tenants more aware of their rights. However, this would only work on the condition that these organisations remain politically neutral.”

On the proposals to intervene on the private rented sector, however, chief executive Richard Lambert is less sanguine: “These proposals show how out of touch with the reality of the private rented sector the Labour Party currently is. The current Conservative government is already either implementing or consulting on many of these proposals, including a Labour MP’s own Fitness for Human Habitation Bill.

“We don’t believe that imposing an arbitrary cap on rent levels would have the effect desired by Labour, John Healey and other proponents. Government intervention through rent controls would be counter-productive to encouraging supply at a time when it is so badly needed.

“The proposals don’t address the real reason that the section 21 no fault possession process is used so much, which is that the courts are so overloaded that the preferred section 8 procedure, citing grounds for ending the tenancy, has become uncertain, time consuming and expensive.  If Labour really wanted to make a difference in how the private rented sector works, it should tackle the causes of the problems, not the symptoms.”

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