If, as the ComRes polling for Generation Rent suggests, the result of next year`s general election could well be determined by the "35% of people in the private rented sector who describe themselves as floating voters", Labour had better get its skates on. As the government seems intent on providing more opportunities for the Buy-to-Rent sector,with not only its Help to Buy system apparently being of as much assistance to landlords as first-time buyers, but also its budget proposals encouraging pensioners to enter the frame, and now its Build to Rent scheme adding another 10,000 properties for renting, Labour should be working closely with the Generation Rent campaigners.
Just as the Tories clearly see the existing and future landlords as their supporters, Labour should be honing in on the tenants. The shadow housing minister said "several initiatives" were being planned, but failed to mention details. If the Help to Buy system is to continue, should it not be exclusively for first-time buyers who will occupy the property? Is there not a need, too, for an Ofsted-type organisation to be set up to inspect all rented property, including those houses rented out to students in university towns? Depending on the property`s location and standard, a grading or banding system could then be introduced along council tax lines, with rents set accordingly. Rents are universally too high, and with housing benefit from the taxpayers subsidising the landlords` profits, regulation is clearly needed; perhaps a cap at 2010 levels might be a start, whilst long term changes are discussed? Lowering demand will also be beneficial, so a huge increase in social housing availability is essential.