As the Labour party published its manifesto last week, one pre-election idea was notable by its absence – the right for renters to buy their homes. The controversial policy, which would have allowed private tenants to buy their home at a discount, was slated by the property industry when it was announced in September.
Two months ago shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told the Financial Times that under a future Labour government discounts could be made available to tenants, allowing houses to be bought at below market value. Understandably this went down like a lead balloon, not only with landlords but with industry bodies and commentators – including ourselves.
Two weeks ago Labour appeared to have watered-down its original proposal, saying it should only apply to the “wealthiest landlords”. What the benchmark would be for “wealthiest” was not explained. The policy has now been dropped.
There are other pledges in the manifesto to make landlords uneasy. The scrapping of Section 21 (also a Conservative policy) and the idea of rent controls have been roundly criticised. Rightly so we think – particularly as we continue to monitor the adverse effects of this in Germany. There, stock availability is being squeezed as landlords divest (at a time when we need more homes) or stop doing repairs in an attempt to get tenants to leave and get a vacant property back which can then be re-let for more.
However, there are some good ideas too which are likely to be welcomed by landlords and tenants alike:
- Lifting the freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for tenants on benefits and realigning LHA to the 30th percentile of local rents.
- Paying the housing element of Universal Credit direct to landlords,
- Ending Right to Rent checks.
Across all the political parties it’s certainly a mixed bag for those voters with housing issues uppermost in their minds. Midnight tonight is the deadline for voter registration and tenants campaign group Generation Rent is urging renters, who move around more than homeowners, to ensure they are registered at their current address and to make their vote count. Landlords – and everyone else in the industry – should ensure they do the same.