Local housing campaigners have said they are still unconvinced that Labour is offering solutions to problems facing renters in light of last week’s report into the UK rental market by campaign group Generation Rent.
The report showed 56 constituencies now have more renters than homeowners. Hackney South and Shoreditch has a renting population of 76 per cent, while Bethnal Green and Bow has one of 73 per cent – the two constituencies with the highest proportion of renters. Five ELL constituencies were ranked in the top ten nationally.
Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, praised the report and said: “I am acutely aware of the problems that ever rising rents, in particular, cause.”
“It is vital that steps are taken nationally and locally to improve conditions in the private rented sector. The introduction of 3 year tenancies, as my party is calling for, is a starting point but we need to do more and act quickly.”
Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, similarly mentioned Labour’s commitment to improve the market should it be elected next year.
“As well as proposing mechanisms to place a ceiling on rent increases, Ed Miliband has set out tough plans to ban letting agents from demanding unreasonable fees. The government’s record of the lowest peacetime level of house-building since the 1920s shows they don’t have a serious plan for addressing the housing crisis facing our country.”
At an October meeting of Hackney housing campaigners Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington went further than her leader’s proposals, calling for regulation of the housing market to stabilise rents.
Hackney Council last month passed a motion to establish a council-run social letting agency. The council also resolved to campaign against the Government’s housing policy.
However, some are unconvinced that politicians’ pledges, whether Labour or Conservative, will add up to changes. Since Generation Rent published its report last Thursday only two MPs have signed up to be Renter Champions. Both Teresa Pearce and John McDonnell have constituencies in Greater London.
Alex Hilton, director of Generation Rent, said: “I speak to politicians all the time about this and the broad attitude is ‘oh well that’s just young people, they’ll grow up and buy a house at some stage.’ They have no clue how difficult or even impossible that is.”
“Other politicians say move to somewhere where the homes are cheaper. But homes are cheaper because there aren’t any jobs in those places… I get really angry when a politician tells me to go somewhere where I can’t get a job so my living costs can go down.”
Hilton last month attacked the Labour-commissioned Lyons Report, warning that the party’s decision to adopt this “represents a political willingness for me and for people like me to be exploited in perpetuity to the benefit of homeowners, landowners and property developers.”
John Hamilton, Lewisham People Before Profit campaign officer, was similarly concerned that politicians will not deliver anything for renters, labelling Generation Rent “naïve” for believing that campaigning to MPs will bring about change.
“As People Before Profit and other groups in the Radical Housing Network have shown, it is only a combination of direct action and public pressure that will force parliament or councils to start serving the people rather than the developers and the vulture capitalists.”
Hamilton laid out four solutions to the capital’s renting challenges:
- Regulation of “fair rents”
- Any new housing development should be council housing with regulated rents
- Stop selling council homes
- Register all private landlords with local councils
Constituencies in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham all now have majority renter populations. Poplar and Limehouse and Hackney North and Stoke Newington are both ranked in the top ten with over 70 per cent renters. Lewisham Deptford and Lewisham West and Penge’s rental populations are over 50%.
At current rates all ELL boroughs bar Croydon South are expected to have majority renter populations by 2021.