New controls on the UK’s private rental market hailed is a flawed idea

Taylor Scott International News

Home seekers would face higher rents and restricted choice if tenancy rent controls were introduced in the UK, it is claimed. The Labour Party’s proposal to bring down the cost of renting and improving tenant security through the introduction of rental controls would actually result in higher rents initially, according to new research In the report, The Flaws in Rent Ceilings by Ryan Bourne for the Institute of Economic Affairs, argues that policymakers should instead look to radically shake up planning laws in order to facilitate more private rented accommodation and improve individual wellbeing through increased affordability. The study also claims that the Labour plan would lead to a misallocation of housing and a reduction in the supply of homes to rent without improving affordability and it questions claims that individuals suffer from a lack of security of tenure in the private rented sector. Secure tenancies are provided by the market for those willing to pay for them. The report says that the private rented sector’s share of the total housing stock has rebounded from a severe collapse having been subject to draconian rent controls between 1915 and 1989. Only since its liberalisation has the industry improved, with private rental accounting for over 16% of the housing stock in 2013, up from 10% in the late 1980s and early 90s. It argues that the success of the German rental market, where similar restrictions exist, cannot be used to justify the implementation of tenancy rent controls in the UK as while Germany’s ability to meet rising demand through the building of new homes has meant rents have become increasingly affordable since 1980, the same cannot be said for the UK. ‘With 1.3 million households in the UK renting from private landlords, the sector is in desperate need of policies that will stimulate desirable rentable accommodation at an affordable price. A lack of new property development continues to push up the cost of rent and Labour’s plans will only make things worse. Liberalising planning laws, in contrast, would enable the supply of rentable property to catch up with increasing demand, bringing down the cost of rent,’ said Bourne. ‘Despite claims from politicians, controls such as these will not improve the affordability of renting, other than in the very short term. These controls are likely to push up rents, due to greater uncertainty over future regulation and the risk to landlords associated with increased security of tenure. New tenants would face high initial rents as landlords insure against within-tenancy risks and compensate for future losses,’ he explained. He also pointed out that security of tenure is not a major consideration for the majority of those groups dominating the private rental market, namely young people, students and more mobile households.’ Over 35% of private renters remained in residencies for less than a year in 2013. Because rents will be initially higher, fixed term tenancies would allow less mobile households to enjoy low rents at the expense of the more mobile, harming labour… Taylor Scott International

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