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Private Rented Sector

Part of Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 3:08 pm on 25th June 2014.

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Photo of Angie Bray Angie Bray Conservative, Ealing Central and Acton 3:08 pm, 25th June 2014

Predictably, that is a very sensible point from my hon. Friend. As I was saying, the best solution to affordability of housing, whether rented or not, is to increase supply. That is happening in London, with 100,000 purpose-built affordable homes being built—5,000 for rent for each year across the two mayoral terms. However, we must not get into a situation where private landlords are in some way viewed as a necessary evil. The Opposition’s plans to flatten the market will simply mean it is less attractive to invest in property. Controlled rents in other capital cities point to how detrimental it can be for those seeking to rent. Properties are neglected and choice is limited. Waiting lists are long, and unrealistically high deposits can be needed simply to secure somewhere to live—I am thinking of places such as New York.

Until the 1960s, the private rented sector took care of a substantial part of housing need in this country. As I mentioned earlier, it was an important part of the mobility required to seek work wherever it could be found. Yes, there were bad landlords, and names like Rachman loom large in that regard, but slum landlords such as him could have been dealt with more effectively by law enforcement.

Instead, the Labour Governments of the ’60s decided to bear down on the private rental sector in general, starting a long decline in the number of private properties available to rent. I remember well coming down from university to London in the 1970s—I am showing my age here—and finding it quite difficult to get a room. I was not in a position to go on a waiting list for a council property and I certainly could not afford to buy my own. Since then, the private rental sector has picked up again, providing a great deal more flexibility. If Labour were to win power and put some of its proposals on the sector into practice, I greatly fear that we would again see a decline in the private rented sector, and less flexibility with fewer properties available.

It is all very well to talk about controlling the private rental sector with increased regulation, but if we find there are very few properties available to be rented out, because the landlords have been disincentivised, those who need a property will suffer. How can that possibly be of benefit to anyone?