Joint approaches needed to improve London’s private renting, says new report

by Dave Hill

London government should work more productively with landlords and developers to improve the capital’s private rented housing sector (PRS), according to a new report from regeneration practitioners’ network Future of London.

Its conclusions, following a three-year research programme, also urge a “more strategic focus on the creation, sharing and use of information” about the PRS to help “tackle the biggest challenges” it faces.

The research took place in the context of London’s PRS doubling in size over the past 20 years to account for more than a quarter of housing in the capital overall, and with the Greater London Authority anticipating it could rise to 40% by 2030, as social renting and home ownership decline by comparison.

Increasing PRS supply, professionalising landlords, making the sector work better for tenants and improving energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty would all “foster the more collaborative and equitable PRS London needs,” says the report, which argues that a “more comprehensive picture of London’s PRS landscape” is needed, enabling a better understanding of the different roles local authorities, investors and tenants play.

Noting the link between growing demand for PRS home and a 20% increase in market rents in London between 2011 and 2016, the report records that over one third of PRS households were spending more than half their income on rent by 2014/15 and that rising rents have had “the most pronounced impact on low-income Londoners”.

Approaches explored to increasing supply and holding rent levels down include Sadiq Khan’s London Living Rent tenure, which links private rents to local income levels as a prelude to shared ownership, boroughs and commercial developers or housing associations forming private-public partnerships, a boroughs creating private companies to deliver various forms of housing on their own land, including PRS (Croydon, Newham, Harrow and Sutton are among those to do this).

The report, entitled Engaging London’s Private Rented Sector, commends enforcement measures against criminal landlords and lettings agents but urges more to help individual landlords, whose numbers have increased since the deregulation of the PRS during the 1980s and the more recent availability of Buy To Let mortgages, to provide a better service. “It’s easy to demonise landlords, but they are not the root of the private rented sector’s problems,” the report says.

There is encouragement for greater tenure security, with the Mayor urged to “consider leading a cross-sector conversation on intervening to stabilise rents” and an endorsement of Build To Rent developments offering “longer tenancies as standard” to the advantage of tenants and operators alike in place of the standard six or 12-month assured shorthold contracts. This is particularly recommended in view of the increasing number of families with children renting privately in London (an estimated 60,000).

On energy efficiency and lessening fuel poverty, the report says the GLA should share data and maps so that retrofit funds can be targeted at area most in need, which can often be with Conservation Areas, which can make it more difficult for the necessary remedial work to be done.

Read the whole of Engaging London’s Private Rented Sector via here. Future of London is a friend of this website.

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