As the party conference season gathers pace, one industry leader has called on all parties to ‘listen to the professionals’ before finalising their rental market policy plans in the run-up to the next general election.
Neil Cobbold, managing director of PayProp UK, a client accounting and automated rental payment platform, said:
“Housing finds itself higher up the political agenda than it has been for many years, and the private rented sector (PRS) in particular has been a focus of reform.
“One of the biggest issues facing the entire market is a huge shortage of supply. Not nearly enough homes are being built and the cost of living crisis and interest rate rises have pushed property prices down, making developers reconsider the profitability of building new homes.
“Politicians from all parties know there are challenges across the sector – but we’re calling on them to listen to what the property professionals – the acknowledged experts – have to say before making manifesto commitments.”
Housing-aware party politics
The major parties all signalled their interest in housing in recent weeks and months gone by. The Liberal Democrats met in Bournemouth last week, and it was a row over house-building that grabbed all the headlines. A motion backed by the leadership to scrap targets for new construction was defeated in a floor vote with members in favour of retaining a pledge to build 380,000 homes a year in England.
The Conservative Party gathered in Manchester this week and the industry will be awaiting an update on the government’s Renters’ (Reform) Bill. And heartened by their poll lead, Labour members meet in Liverpool where debates on housing reform are dominating the timetable for the fringe meetings.
Cobbold said: “It is no surprise that housing has become a hot topic for politicians – housing affects everybody and housing reform can often generate positive headlines for them without a big bill for HM Treasury, something all parties are trying to avoid in the run-up to the next election. But poorly thought-through reforms could see taxpayers footing the bill anyway, which is why consultation with property experts is essential.
Mixed signals on reform
“Over the past year we’ve seen legislation in the form of the Renters’ Reform Bill finally being introduced, but it lacks the necessary detail to fully inform and equip the industry for the future. Even more worrying, it was introduced in May and we have yet to see it get its second reading – there’s been no visible progress for four months.”
Last week, just after Parliament rose for the conference season, the government scrapped plans to introduce tougher minimum energy efficiency standards for all privately rented homes by 2028.
“Many responsible landlords had already spent money improving their properties because the government had told them this change was going to be introduced in 2025. This last-minute change penalises the investors who plan ahead to, literally, get their house in order. Decisions like this encourage the industry as a whole to leave everything until the last minute just in case the government changes its mind.
“It is vitally important that legislators draw on the experience of industry professionals and provide reassurance and sufficient detail on housing reform. Without a stable market and well thought-out reforms, it’s difficult for landlords and property professionals to invest in the future of the private rented sector if the laws that govern it are subject to such rapid change.
“I’m attending meetings and events at both Conservative and Labour conferences this year and it’ll be interesting to see how much industry knowledge has informed the various proposals.”