Last week, Julian Gregory, the Liberal Democrat general election candidate for Islington North, attended hustings on housing organised by the Islington Private Renters group and Generation Rent, a housing campaigning organisation.
Julian talked about the housing crisis that is facing Islington, and of the big social changes this is bringing about. He also put forward some solutions, which include a number of Lib Dem policy proposals. These are needed both to strengthen the position of renters and to get more homes built, in Islington and across the country.
You can read what Julian said in his short opening statement below.
And you can find his story of the housing crisis, including facts from Shelter and details of several policies on housing, by clicking here.
“The word is overused, but we really are at crisis point in terms of housing, including private renting – and the position in Islington is as acute as it is anywhere.
- The size of the private rental sector has almost doubled since 2001
- The number of families renting has doubled over the past 10 years
- In central London, more households rent privately (29%) than have mortgages (19%)
- And rents are extremely high relative to incomes
These sorts of developments are having big social consequences:
- People stay in jobs that they don’t like because they need to pay high rents
- Some couples put off having children because it takes years to save for a deposit
- And people are renting for very long periods of time through stages of their lives when they want to put down roots in an area.
Our politicians – of whom I imagine nearly all own properties rather than rent - and the legal framework are yet to catch up with these changes.
Regulation of the private rental sector needs to change so that renters feel much safer and more secure than they do at the moment.
That will involve:
- Longer tenancy periods
- More licensing of landlords
- More support and advice for tenants when they have problems
- And more rights for tenants – the ban on revenge evictions that was pushed through Parliament by Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather was a step forward but more needs to be done
Affordability is also a big issue, especially in Islington where rents are already high and rising.
Most renters don’t expect to be able to buy their own home, even though they would like to.
There will be a number of things in the Lib Dem manifesto to help in terms of affordability:
- Government-backed loans to cover tenancy deposits for first time renters
- A potential ban on estate agent fees for tenants – if they don’t start falling
- A rent-to-own scheme – thousands of properties to be made available specifically for first time buyers who would gain equity as they pay rent
- And the First Time Buyers ISA announced in the Budget
But ultimately costs will only start to fall if and when we increase the supply of new homes.
We have 6 politicians on stage, so I’m sure there will be some party political point scoring. But in fact there is a long term dynamic here.
- In the decades following WWII, governments of all colours were heavily involved in building more homes.
- In contrast, from the 1980s onwards, including across the Blair/Brown years, the focus was almost exclusively on private sector developments.
If we are going to start building the number of homes that we need – and the Lib Dems have as ambitious a target for home building as any of the parties – then we are going to need both the public and private sectors to be full steam ahead.
Any party putting all of its eggs into either the public or private baskets is going to come up short.
Finally, the craziest thing is how short-term policies have been – over decades.
Currently, for every £1 the government spends on building new homes, £19 is spent on housing benefit – a large proportion of which goes to private landlords.
In the post-war years, far more was spent on building than on subsidising rents.
We need housing policies that are long term and based much more on investing for the future.”
If you would like to see a quick summary of Julian’s views on other policy areas, you can find that here.