Brighton & Hove’s 12 wards consultation for
Private Renting Reforms
The council has started a consultation on a new selective licensing system for 12 wards in the city. The means that all private rented properties in these wards will need to be licensed with the council if not already covered under HMO licensing.
The advantages for tenants are that it will no longer be down to the tenant to report poor property conditions to the council, something many tenants are reluctant to do for fear of losing their home. It will be the responsibility of the landlord to get the licence and the council to check that all the standards are being met. The conditions are not onerous, and cover the basic requirements that anyone should expect in their home, including insulation and heating, fire safety, a good standard of maintenance, space for refuse and recycling, amongst others
Inevitably many landlords are against the scheme and that’s why it’s so important that tenants have their say in the consultation so that their voices are heard.
Landlord licensing was called for in the council’s scrutiny report in 2015 and the Fairness Commission, and many bodies, including The Citizens Advice, have also recommended it. So please do respond. We welcome all comments and feedback on the detail as well.
The consultations close at midnight on Sunday 10 September 2017.
We recently held a very lively and informative housing hustings with local parliamentary candidates, to a packed auditorium in the Brighthelm Centre,
We are holding the second of our election debates, this time to give residents a chance to question local Councillor candidates on what they will do if elected to address the housing crisis in this area. We have asked the housing spokesperson of each party to reply to our questions which will form part of the debate on the night.
The Council does have powers to affect the outcome of people’s chances for a decent home:-
- To build new social housing at a fair rent
- Promote regulation of landlords
- Working towards setting up ethical letting agents
- Work together for the greater good of the citizens of Brighton and Hove
The council has already extended the HMO licencing scheme but much more needs to be done to ensure landlords comply with decent standards.
During our campaign we have spoken to hundreds of people, at our stalls and events who are at breaking point because they are not afforded one of the most basic human rights – a secure and decent place to live!
We have a petition of almost 3,000 local residents supporting A CALL FOR FAIR PRIVATE RENTS, NEW SOCIAL HOUSING AND SECURE TENANCIES, which we will hand in to all parliamentary and council candidates just before the election.
When: Wednesday 29th April
Where: The Brighthelm Centre, Stanmer Room Brighthelm Church and Community Centre, North Road, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1YD
Why is there a housing crisis? What should we do about it?
We’ve asked all the candidates up here to start with a 5 minute contribution on what they believe to be the causes of the housing crisis and how their party would resolve it.
Before I ask them to speak, I will briefly outline the Living Rent Campaign’s answers to those questions.
I hope that as well as telling us what they would do, the candidates will take this opportunity to listen to the views and experiences of all of you who have come along tonight. We’ll be asking for questions and contributions from the floor very soon.
Is there a crisis?
Most definitely there is a crisis, and we are feeling it very acutely in Brighton & Hove. When we go out talking to people at our street stalls, we hear the same issues come up again and again – rents are unaffordable, decent housing is very difficult to find, there’s no security for tenants. People who are lucky enough to be settled in homes they own tell us that their children can’t afford to move out. People on benefits find that landlords or letting agents aren’t prepared to let to them. Letting agents demand ridiculous fees. The number of people sleeping rough is rising dramatically.
I won’t go on, because everybody knows there is a big problem. But here’s one statistic to start us off.
The council’s most recent snapshot of private sector rents shows the average rent for a 3 bedroom house in the city to be £1,519 per month. Local Housing Allowance – the maximum housing benefit payable – for a 3 bedroom property is £988, so families on incomes low enough to qualify for full housing benefit would need to put in over £500 a month towards rent, which comes out of money needed for food, clothing and other bills.
So what caused the crisis?
We’re now living in a country where housing, and land, are seen as investments not homes.
House building has not kept pace with the growth of population over the last 20 years, as the market has failed to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of the state from housebuilding.
Where will we live? James Meek writes about the housing crisis
Owners of land are sitting on it, undeveloped, because the appreciating value of the land is worth more to them than the profit they could make by building sooner.
When houses are built, they don’t end up as homes for people who can’t afford to pay their rent. Many are bought as investments, pushing up house prices further and dragging rents up with them.
Some people are doing very nicely out of the current situation. Private landlords have made £177bn in profit from capital gains over the last five years. That’s without even including the income from rents, a cool £9bn a year of which comes from housing benefits.
The roots of the crisis go right back to the 1980s, when the Thatcher government took a series of steps to deregulate the housing market:
- The Right to Buy policy meant that councils have been forced to sell homes at large discounts and prevented from reinvesting the proceeds in more housing. In Brighton & Hove, since 1997, the council has sold off 1,342 dwellings, and built just 15 new homes, with another 200 on the way.
- Private tenants lost their historic rights to security of tenure and, crucially
- New tenancies were not subject to the Fair Rent system, under which local authorities set a maximum rent that could be charge for each property.
While buy-to-let landlords receive generous tax breaks and land owners artificially restrict the supply of new housing, more and more people are finding that they simply can’t afford to live in Brighton & Hove.
When we talk to people in the streets, most people agree that the current situation can’t go on. Most people say it’s ‘crazy’ or some variation on that. I think calling it crazy lets off the hook the people who have taken deliberate decisions that brought us to this point. I say this situation is not an accident and it’s not a mistake. It’s wrong, and we need our politicians to take action to put it right.
What should be done?
Over 2,500 people have signed our petition in support of the following actions. That’s more than the margin by which all three local MPs were elected in 2010.
All these proposals are based on a simple underlying idea – that housing is a human right and fundamental need. It’s an idea that’s being expressed powerfully across London by people fighting to keep their homes like Focus E15, the New Era Estate and the Sweets Way occupation.
Housing shouldn’t be an investment opportunity and if we want to call ourselves a civilised society, we need to work out how to meet this basic need for everyone, regardless of their income or wealth.
- Bring back fair rents. We need rents pegged to income, not market rates. There are rent control systems currently in operation in several countries in Europe, such as Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. The rental market in those countries has not collapsed. It’s time we made a stand against the scaremongering of people who have made a killing from the current free-for-all, and set community standards for the amount of rent landlords can charge.
- End the right to buy. Allow councils to borrow against their assets to build more social housing.
- Long term secure tenancies in the private sector, to allow people the chance to put down roots and be part of their local communities
- Regulation of all private landlords and enforcement of strict minimum standards for housing in the private rented sector
- An end to agency fees and to discrimination against tenants on benefits
(Written and spoken by Dani Aherns at The Living Rent Campaign Housing Hustings on 31st March 2015)
Despite the ‘March For Homes’ in March 2015 having a greater turn out of people it received miniscule coverage, and on the contrary there was a huge amount of coverage of the ‘Homes For Britain’ march,
So, why why why why oh why the discrepancy???
Vice.com has published an extremely insightful article explaining why the ‘Homes For Britain’ march was an absolute sham.
Read about it here >>