EMPTY offices could be converted into flats as part of a scheme announced by the Government this week.
The emphasis should be on creating affordable secure housing in sustainable communities. This could take the form of social housing, shared ownership schemes and housing co-operatives, ideally in projects which create training and employment opportunties for the unemployed. What we don’t need is more poorly regulated, insecure and unaffordable housing or an increase in city centre luxury accommodation. Any private rented accommodation should be in the form of Assured tenancies or long renewable fixed-term Assured Shortholds with predictable rents and increases linked to an index reflecting the cost of living. There should also be a requirement for landlords to be part of a local landlord accreditation scheme. A strategic approach to any new developments should be adopted in line with the above framework along with a major national social housing building programme. Any moves for exemptions from planning permission should not compromise environmental, health and safety and social cohesion considerations.
The Empty Homes Agency is campaigning for a right to reclaim which proposes a new legal right empowering communities and citizens to reclaim abandoned property. This right would be open to all communities and citizens allowing them the right to make a claim to use an empty property as their home (See: http://www.emptyhomes.com/what-we-do-2/campaign-demands/campaign-for-a-right-to-reclaim/).
NPTO has links with private tenant groups in other countries and works to support them wherever it can.
Another country were rents are set by the market and there is lack of security of tenure in the private rented sector is Australia. In 1998 about 25% of Australians rented privately by 2011 the figure had risen to 30%. The social housing sector in 2009/10 was only around 3.9%. Australian landlords can give notice without any grounds. In Australia rents in the private sector are freely set by the market and can occur up to twice a year, after each contractual term of 6 or 12 months. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics median national weekly rent was $285 per week in 2011, compared with $190 in 2006. Leases are usually between 6 and 12 months. Landlords can terminate leases after each lease period without having to give any reasons.
For more information about the private rented sector in Australia please read the article in the International Union of Tenants magazine Global Tenant (December edition) at http://www.iut.nu/
Join the fight for better rights for tenants at http://www.npto.btck.co.uk/JOINUS
An announcement was made on 20/12/12 about a £200m fund for Build to Rent in the private rented sector.
Homes and Community Agency Chief Executive Pat Ritchie said: “The private rented sector is already home for a significant number of people, including young professionals and families, and demand for this type of housing is rising. We want to see people having the opportunity to choose their housing options, of which private rented is a growing and vital part. This programme will increase and accelerate the building of quality and well-managed private rented homes, as well as encouraging long-term institutional investors to the sector which will in turn unlock greater capacity in the housing market.”
The quote above states that “We want to see people having the opportunity to choose their housing options.” Many renters do not have a choice of tenure and their only choice is the private rented sector where they can be subject to inflated rents and poor quality accommodation.
Reading through the fund prospectus core parameters under the heading management, reference is made to ‘Robust and realistic letting and management plan’ and ‘Clear proposals for a high quality management regime’. It will be very interesting to see exactly what is required and if this means a fairer balance between the rights of landlords and tenants. I could not find any reference to tenant representation and participation which is a must if there is going to be institutional investors.
The core proposals also state that ‘Accommodation should be appropriate for long term, high quality residential letting. Lets hope this means long fixed term Assured Shortholds and Assured tenancies being offered or new types of tenancies which provide the security many tenants require! The fund misses out on addressing the issue of rocketing market rents. In periods of high demand private tenants suffer from inflated rents which bear no relationship to a reasonable return on an investment. Market rents have no relationship to affordability.
Information on the fund also states that “The Fund could be used to cover development costs such as land, construction or management costs. Once the development is complete and fully let, the developer will refinance or sell on its interest and repay the finance back to government.” What would happen to robust management standards once a new owner takes on the development?
The above are just some initial thoughts on the fund.
I was reading an interesting article recently in the co-operative members magazine about a housing co-operative in South East Australia. The article had the title “I have a secure and stable home for my family”. How many private tenants would like to say that! The South East Housing Co-operative formed in 2000 has rents set at 25% of members income. The article stated that the co-op is a long-term sustainable housing model that works!
There was an interesting article in the Guardian on how a group of like-minded people set up a housing co-op in East London. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/jul/29/housing-co-op-affordable-home and
Housing co-ops are groups of people who live in and collectively manage their accommodation. Members take responsibility for arranging repairs, decisions about rent and membership of the co-operative. It can be difficult to get a place in a housing co-op because housing co-ops are quite scarce and few vacancies come up. To see a list of existing housing co-operatives go to: http://www.cch.coop/coopinfo/links.html
Mutual Housing is membership based housing – where some form of community membership owns and/or manages new or existing homes.See: http://mutualhousinggroup.coop/
I personally would like to see more private tenants having the option of applying to join a housing co-operative rather than moving into the private rented sector where they might have to put up with high rents, insecurity and poor housing conditions and little say about anything to do with their tenancy. The National Private Tenants Organisation (NPTO) campaigns for formal structures to facilitate tenant consultation. Alas as you will have seen from the list of housing co-ops at www.cch.coop there are not that many around.
For further info. visit the Confederation of Co-operative housing at: http://www.cch.coop/
and http://www.uk.coop/content/funding-housing-co-ops and
NPTO continues to campaign for professionally managed, secure, decent and affordable private rented homes in sustainable communities and for private tenants to be consulted by landlords on issues affecting them.
One of the biggest drawbacks with renting privately is long term security.
Many tenants want settled lives without the risk of losing their homes due to a landlord’s automatic right to possession (Housing Act 1988, Part 1, Chaper 2, Section 21 for Assured Shorthold tenancies).
NPTO has uncovered evidence of rogue landlords being engaged in the practice of retaliatory eviction (see http://www.npto.btck.co.uk/Researchandreports) when a tenant tries to have their legal rights upheld. I am sure professional landlords oppose this as much as tenants do. Some countries have laws to prevent this practice, NPTO calls for legislation to deal with the problem. CAB produced a great report on the issue called the Tenant’s Dilemma – http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/press_20070613).
Surely landlords want a stable income stream! why not grant renewable long fixed term Assured Shorthold tenancies (with break clauses for tenants) or grant Assured tenancies, you know it makes sense!
You may have read the report on BBC News today (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-18103253) that private rents in England and Wales rose by 0.5% in April, according to letting agency group LSL Property Services and that pushed the average rent up to £709 a month. The report also said that despite several monthly dips in 2012, rents are still rising at a faster rate than wages annually.
It is a scandal that private rented sector rents are subject to casino market forces, i.e. if demand is greater than supply landlords can exploit the situation and charge higher rents which bear no relation to a reasonable return on an investment. We urgently need statutory rent regulation, whatever the complex formula used to calculate rents one factor must be affordability linked to median income? Other European countries like Germany have a large private rented sector and greater regulation than the UK so the arguement that greater regulation would reduce the size of the private rented sector does not hold water.
Shelter has said that: “Families now need to earn a combined salary of £52,000 a year to be able to rent a two-bedroom home affordability in London”.
Support the NPTO campaign for safer homes at: http://KeepRentingSafe.weebly.com
There is increasing evidence that some landlords are evicting private tenants to get higher rents from visitors to the Olympics.
It has been reported that some tenants are being evicted illegally.
The whole problem with private renting is that there is no security for the majority of private tenants. The Assured Shorthold tenancy allows landlords an automatic right to possession and allows some rogue landlords to evict tenants in retaliation to their requests for repairs etc (see the NPTO report on www.npto.btck.co.uk/researchandreports for evidence on retaliatory eviction).
It is time private tenants had security of tenure.