Private Rented Sector

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 8th September 2014.

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Photo of Pat Glass Pat Glass Labour, North West Durham 2:30 pm, 8th September 2014

What steps he is taking to improve stability and affordability in the private rented sector.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

We will soon publish a model tenancy agreement to encourage longer tenancies. Our £1 billion Build to Rent fund will deliver up to 10,000 new homes for private rent, and our housing guarantee schemes will attract long-term investors into the market, which in itself will increase choice, quality and stability for renters.

Photo of Pat Glass Pat Glass Labour, North West Durham

I thank the Minister for his answer, but the fact remains that we are building fewer than half of the homes we need in this country, and the combination of that and rising private sector rents is putting home ownership out of reach for many families. Is the Minister content that under his Government the dream of home ownership will be out of reach of millions of families in this country?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

I am slightly surprised by the hon. Lady’s question, given that under the previous Administration the number of affordable rental homes fell by 420,000 and under this Government, since 2010, we have got about 480,000 new homes built. To be clear, and contradicting something she said, average rents are down in real terms year on year under this Government.

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby

Does the Minister agree that the way to improve stability and affordability in the private rented sector is for local authorities to make more land available for housing? That is happening in my constituency, where we are delivering new housing at double the rate seen in the country as a whole.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The affordable homes programme is on track to deliver 170,000 new affordable homes between 2011 and 2015. It is important that we keep on top of that and keep moving forward with the new homes that we need.

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich

May I draw attention to my interests as declared in the register? In its consultation earlier this year on the future of the private rented sector, the Minister’s Department proposed the possibility of extending a requirement to have working smoke alarms fitted in all private rented units. I understand that there has been overwhelming support for that in the response to the consultation, and I would welcome an indication from the Minister as to when the Government intend to act on this recommendation.

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

As soon as we are ready to respond to that consultation, the right hon. Gentleman will be among the first to know.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Will the Minister cast his mind over the problems that are faced by people living in the private rented sector in London? It is unaffordable for anyone on average or below-average income, and those on benefits can no longer remain within the communities that they have lived in for many years. Does he accept that it is time for full regulation of the private rented sector and for a limitation on the levels of rent that can be charged so that we can maintain the diversity and cohesion of communities all over the capital city?

Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis Minister of State (Communities and Local Government)

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. However, affordable housing starts in 2013-14 show an increase on the previous year, with a large percentage of them being in London. I remind him of what I said a few moments ago: under this Government average rents are down in real terms year on year, not just elsewhere in England but in London. It has been clear from the suggestions by Labour Members that the idea of short-term gimmicks such as rent controls are simply something from the past.