The UK housing crisis is unprecedented. The number of new homes being built in the UK is too low and the number of genuinely affordable social homes being built with Government funding has dropped by a staggering 95 per cent since the Lib Dem-Tory coalition started in 2010.
In response to the shortage of social housing and the spiralling cost of homes to buy, the number of people renting privately has grown enormously in recent years, many of whom are now living in the private rented sector for the long term, including 1.5 million households with children.
The private rented sector is unfit for purpose, with tenants paying above the odds for lower levels of security and often lower quality accommodation. Private renters spend on average 41 per cent of their income on rent, leaving many struggling to make ends meet. The ending of a private tenancy is now the single biggest cause of new cases of homelessness.
The situation is made much worse by the introduction by the Lib Dem-Tory coalition Government of the local housing allowance cap, which increasingly means that almost no private sector housing is affordable to people on low-to-average incomes in London.
We urgently need wholesale reform of the private rented sector. We need longer, more secure forms of tenure; action to curb spiralling rents and new requirements on the standard of accommodation to make every home fit for human habitation.
In the context of the need for reform, banning letting agents from charging fees to tenants is a vital first step. Those fees are presently completely unregulated, and the letting agents are chosen and appointed by landlords. Many tenants move every six to 12 months, leading to a repeating and unaffordable burden.
The Government must act urgently to address the housing crisis, to invest directly in genuinely affordable social housing and to bring forward low-cost homes for first-time buyers. We need urgent comprehensive reform of the private rented sector to make it fit for purpose and to address the impact of housing insecurity and homelessness on families across the country. Banning letting agents’ fees should be a first step, but there is much more to do.