Last week, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) released a white paper titled A Fairer Private Rented Sector.
Each aspect of this paper, which lays out what the government would like to become a law, tackles real issues the people we serve face and we are pleased that after a long wait it has finally been published.
However, we're disappointed to hear from some people, including landlords' groups, a view that the actions in the white paper will cause a ‘huge housing crisis’. Some are saying that the measures may cause many landlords to sell their properties risking ‘a reduction in availability of housing at a time when it is more needed than ever’ which could negatively impact the people we serve who are usually at the back of the housing queue.
But, the current system often results in our clients having only risky and insecure housing choices, and as such their right to housing is not met. It needs fixing.
In our experience, talking to the people we serve, there is a reluctance from some landlords to rent to certain people if there is a perception it will be ‘hard to get rid of them’. This attitude highlights a fundamentally problem in our housing system which heavily relies on private renting for people on low incomes and people with support needs.
Before World War II, 80% of people in the UK rented their home from private landlords, often in atrocious slum conditions. After the war, some rights and standards in private rented housing and social housing were introduced.
We believe any measures to create a fair and decent housing system should be seen as equally fundamental to society and the wellbeing of citizens as the NHS is.
Sadly, some of these rights have been lost in the decades since their introduction, but a well-regulated private rented sector still has a place and we believe the proposed bill will help recover some of those rights for tenants.
Our vision is that southern Buckinghamshire is transformed into a place where there is affordable, suitable housing and housing security for all and that people shouldn't have to leave their homes at short notice for no reason.
Measures laid out in the paper should help us move towards this vision. They include the scrapping of section 21s - no fault evictions where tenants may receive little notice that they have to leave their home; outlawing discrimination against people on benefits and introducing minimum housing-decency standards,
Also, if this paper leads to law, it will formally become illegal to choose not to rent to people on the basis they receive benefits. It has already been established through case law that this is unlawful; it is indirect discrimination towards women and disabled people, both of whom are statistically more likely to be in receipt of benefits, but that doesn't seem to have been enough to stop the practice from occurring.
The law will also see the Decent Homes Standard introduced into the private rented sector. This means that privately rented homes will have to “meet the current statutory minimum standard for housing; be in a reasonable state of repair; have reasonably modern facilities and services and provide a reasonable degree of thermal comfort.”
We know this legislation won’t solve homelessness. As mentioned, some argue that by forcing standards up it might push some landlords to sell or put rents up making homelessness even worse.
Another criticism is that even poor quality housing is "better than the street". We strongly reject this. We won’t help someone move into a property they can’t afford, or is dangerous, or where there is a risk they'll be discriminated against or kicked out in short order!
Affordability of housing and adequate supply are still huge issues and in this discussion, we shouldn’t forget the importance of social housing which should be the best of all worlds; it should meet decent minimum standards, offer secure tenancies and be affordable! This bill doesn’t address those problems, but at least it does address some very real issues we think we help people who are homeless or facing homelessness.