Both the Conservative government and Labour opposition held their party conferences this month, but despite the crucial importance of the private rented sector, it was barely mentioned at either event.
What more did we find out about their plans for the private rented sector and housing in general?
Although they have the most ambitious piece of private rented sector reform in decades going through Parliament, the Conservatives didn’t say much about renting at their conference. Instead, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove focused on housebuilding, saying that the government was on track to build 1 million homes during this Parliament but needed more. Gove added that the green belt should be protected and new homes built on brownfield land. Meanwhile, housing didn’t figure at all in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s keynote speech.
Discussion of the private rented sector took place at the fringe, where Gove announced the government’s planned timeline for the Renters (Reform) Bill but gave no new details on his plans for rental reform.
In fact, the government’s most significant private rented sector announcement came weeks ahead of the conference. Late last month, it was revealed the government was scrapping plans to require all rental properties under new tenancies to have a minimum EPC rating of C by 2025.
The Labour Party, which looks likely to win the next election, also focused mostly on housebuilding and homebuying. Party leader Sir Keir Starmer pledged to build 1.5 million homes in five years, build new towns near cities, and if necessary override local planning objections to get projects started. The party also plans to give local authorities more powers to build homes for rent.
As well as private investment, Labour aims to oversee “the biggest boost to affordable, social and council housing for a generation”, and would increase the number of social rent homes.
Private rented sector policies were thin on the ground and Labour did not set out how they would approach rental reform. However, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning spoke out against rent controls at a fringe event. The party also plans to introduce the recommendations of the 2019 Regulation of Property Agents (ROPA) Working Group report, which would bring in licensing, minimum qualifications and a mandatory Code of Practice for estate and letting agents.
The Liberal Democrats, who held their conference last month, went for the most ambitious housebuilding target of any party: 380,000 homes a year, including 150,000 social homes. The party also wants to introduce a form of rent control and abolish all evictions where the tenant hasn’t breached the tenancy agreement. While a Lib Dem general election win is extremely unlikely, if the next election results in a minority government, the winners could have to rely on Lib Dem votes to pass legislation.
Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party, which controls the Scottish government in a cooperation agreement with the Green Party and therefore oversees devolved housing policy, held a conference mostly focused on its independence strategy this week. However, the SNP does have ambitious plans for rental reform, which you can read about here.
Other housing policy headlines
Lib Dems keep 380,000-home housing target after rebellion – Housing Today
Benefits tenants get more cash to fight evictions – LandlordZONE