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Private Rents

Volume 574: debated on Monday 20 January 2014

The Office for National Statistics’ latest figures show that rents are falling in real terms; in England they have risen by just 1.1%, which is well below the rate of inflation.

I do not know whether the Minister has got some figures for London, but I can tell him that private rents are going up here. They are rising consistently, particularly in outer London, as a result of Government policy. It has also been revealed that 36% of properties sold under the right to buy in London are now in the hands of private landlords, who are charging extortionate private rents. What more are the Government going to do about it, instead of using complacent weasel words such as we just heard?

I do have the figures for London actually. The ONS clearly states that rents in London have risen by 1.9%, which is still below inflation. Those are the figures on actual rents paid, as opposed to advertised rates—they are what often fill our newspapers. This Government are absolutely committed to right to buy. We want to encourage as many people as possible to own their own house, and that is the right thing to do.

Families in private rented accommodation have as much right to a decent home as anybody else, so will the Minister bring forward a new deal which will ensure that families in private rented homes can look forward to more predictable rents, longer-term tenancies and better standards?

This Government are absolutely committed to increasing the number of rented properties, challenging the behaviour of the rented sector—the management of those properties—and making sure that the quality of those houses is put in place. Our approach includes the redress scheme which is currently in the House of Lords, and I look forward to it coming to this House so that we can support tenants and the management of those houses.

20. I draw the attention of hon. Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Private rents in my constituency are now so high that constituents are coming to my surgery afraid to take on private tenancies for fear that on an average wage they are unable to afford them, which they certainly are. When will the Minister wake up, smell the coffee and get a house building programme in place? Does he not agree that that would reduce private rents? (902051)

The Mayor of London is absolutely committed to building an affordable base, which is why this Government have supported his strategy to build more affordable housing with a £1.1 billion grant, which will deliver some 32,000 houses. Before the hon. Lady chucks stones, she should be aware that the number of affordable houses dropped by 427,000 from the start of Labour’s term in government to when it finished. Labour let down the people of this great city, not this Government.

Alongside a tenants charter, which has been referred to, the key to rents and indeed the private rented sector must surely be institutional investment for the long term. What progress is being made with the Build to Rent fund, to which the Minister alluded? How many schemes will it unlock, and let us contrast that with the paucity of action that we saw under the previous Government?

I applaud the work that my hon. Friend did during his time in this position. The Build to Rent programme has been oversubscribed. The first round is some £200 million. Those houses are now beginning to come out of the ground. There are projects in Southampton and Manchester. As a northern MP, I know that the area will appreciate the development of some 100 new properties. Bids have now been received for phase 2. Applications worth more than £2 billion have been made. We are looking forward to announcing the results of that round in the spring. I am talking not about promises to deliver more housing, but about real tangible housing coming out of the ground as a consequence of this Government’s intervention.

The Minister seems to be in complete denial about the levels of unaffordable rents in London and elsewhere. In London, for example, an average family spends more than half its income on rent. The truth is that the Government are presiding over the lowest level of house building since the 1920s and they have cut the affordable homes budget by 60%. Furthermore, the number of working families receiving housing benefit has doubled. What will the Government do to boost supply and to ensure that rents are affordable?

The reality is that it was the Labour Government who delivered the lowest number of houses built in their last term of office. Despite presiding over a period of boom, they still never achieved the ambitious figures that they are talking about now. At the peak, only 176,000 houses were delivered. It is this Government who are using both public and private money to deliver a very ambitious project of affordable housing. Of the 170,000 houses that are planned, 99,000 have already been delivered. We are more than halfway through. With the money that we have given to the Mayor, another 32,000 houses will be delivered. It is this Government who are committed to building houses.