As MPs return to Westminster following the Christmas break, welfare reforms are once again in the spotlight following the Chancellor’s announcement in the Autumn Statement that most benefits, including Local Housing Allowance, will in future rise by just one per cent, rather than in line with inflation.
MPs will vote on Tuesday (8th January) on whether to introduce the measure which has become a fault line between the Government, who argue it is not fair that benefits have increased by more than many people’s wages, and the Opposition, which has attacked ministers for penalising ‘strivers’ by cutting many benefits which support those in work.
The RLA is leading efforts to ensure that landlords and tenants get the best deal possible, having raised concerns with 10 Downing Street itself, as well as appearing before the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, to call for greater clarity about the circumstances under which payments of the housing element of Universal Credit will be paid to landlords.
The RLA is the only private sector landlord organisation to have given evidence to this inquiry.
As part of the Government’s efforts to boost the supply of housing to stimulate wider economic growth, the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk MP, has launched a new £200 million ‘Build to Rent’ fund to support mainly larger scale institutional investors to develop large sights of new private rented housing. Given, however, that the majority of landlords are individuals, the RLA is vigorously pursuing proposals to support such landlords to develop new homes on smaller plots of disused public sector land. Already its proposals are being considered at the heart of Government and they will also be discussed at a forthcoming meeting with the Homes and Communities Agency.
The Opposition, meanwhile, have been equally busy, with the publication of Labour’s policy proposals for consultation on the private rented sector. In seeking to provide greater stability for tenants through longer term tenancies and rental stability, the Party says that it “wants to ensure that the many responsible landlords who do the right thing are not disadvantaged. That is why Labour will work with the sector to develop a range of possible incentives that will form part of a ‘something for something’ deal for landlords.”
In Wales, following news in from the 2011 census that the proportion of people renting privately has increased from 10 per cent in 2001 to 16 per cent in 2011, the RLA is engaged in an on-going series of meetings with the housing spokespeople for the three main parties to shape the private rented sector elements of the Welsh Government’s forthcoming Housing Bill, as well as sitting on a number of Government co-ordinated bodies designed to develop the final legislation.
And finally, the RLA was given a name check in Westminster. During a debate on the Green Deal in the House of Lords at the end of November, the Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister, Lord Grantchester, told Peers, “I know that the Residential Landlords’ Association is keen to see and discuss the regulations for the private rented sector, particularly regarding the compulsion elements. I know that the Minister will agree that every encouragement must be given to the sector to get on with improvements before compulsion.”
Ed Jacobs is the RLA’s public affairs consultant. Email Ed at email@example.com.