A Labour Party pressure group is advocating for the government to allocate £15 billion over a decade to acquire 500,000 private rental properties. The Fabian Society, typically associated with the right-wing of the Labour Party, proposes a locally driven initiative to purchase privately rented homes and convert them into social rented properties, as stated in their comprehensive policy document.
According to the policy statement, the proposed scheme aims to primarily acquire vacant, substandard, or energy-inefficient (below EPC C) homes. Local authorities and housing associations would be granted the first option to purchase houses of multiple occupancy or former council houses sold through the right-to-buy scheme.
To facilitate the implementation of this initiative, the government should consider revising tax incentives or exemptions to incentivize property sales to local authorities and housing associations. Additionally, reducing or eliminating VAT on energy efficiency upgrades would make refurbishing these properties more cost-effective.
Furthermore, the policy document suggests the establishment of a government private rented leasing scheme, enabling local authorities to lease residential properties from private landlords for a minimum of five years.
The proposal aims to enhance availability of affordable and high-quality housing in the private rental sector, especially for individuals receiving benefits, those who are vulnerable, or at risk of homelessness.
Under this plan, local authorities would assume property management responsibilities, providing tailored support and guidance. This arrangement would mitigate risks for landlords while ensuring a guaranteed rental income equivalent to the local housing allowance (LHA) rate in the area, with a management fee deducted and shared among the participating authorities.
The Fabian Society, in alignment with other leftist groups, advocates for enhanced renter protections and improved security of tenure. Their proposals entail the elimination of Section 21 eviction powers and transitioning towards periodic tenancies with limited grounds for repossession. Specifically, landlords should be barred from utilizing eviction notices during the first year of a tenancy for reasons of repossession due to property sale or occupation.
To ensure fairness, the notice period for evictions should be extended to four months, and a permanent ban on winter evictions should be established by law.
Moreover, the Fabians propose that landlords should provide a ‘relocation payment’ to tenants compelled to move if the landlord intends to sell the property, occupy it themselves or for their close family, or if they seek to raise rents above a government-determined threshold and tenants choose not to comply with the increased rate.
According to the Fabian Society’s statement, the proposed ‘relocation payments’ should amount to a minimum of two months’ rent. This measure aims to empower tenants and safeguard them against landlords who exploit exorbitant rent hikes to bypass tenant security.
Additionally, the Fabians advocate for the establishment of a comprehensive national landlord register, encompassing the entire private rental sector, including holiday lets and properties listed on platforms like Airbnb.
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