It’s now six months since Shelter set out its proposals for a more family-friendly private rented sector with the Stable Rental Contract. Our perspective was very much about improving the stability and predictability of renting for England’s 1.3 million private renting families who’ll be living under the shadow of short tenancies for many years to come.
But recent developments show quite clearly that stable renting has wider benefits.
The major housing association Genesis just announced an expansion of its private renting portfolio, and right up there in its press release is the offer of longer term tenancies of up to five years, promising tenants predictable rent increases and the peace of mind to put their roots down in the community.
While there is a clear reputational imperative for social housing providers to ensure their market offer has social benefits, there are strong commercial reasons for associations to make their income stream as secure as possible. By allowing people to really settle into the home and the community with a longer tenancy, they know that people are more likely to stay, look after the place and keep paying the rent – lest they jeopardise their home. And there you have a stable income.
There are community benefits for longer term private tenancies too, and this is why local councils are increasingly interested in stable private renting in major regeneration projects. Olympic borough Newham recommended in its evidence to the CLG Select Committee on Private Renting that landlords be incentivised to offer longer term tenancies.
Think about it: transience costs money, and renters are 11 times more likely to move home in a year than people with a mortgage. Children who move more do less well in school, private tenancies ending are – for the first time – the main cause of homelessness, while it follows that actual transience leads to a transient feel on the streets, which leads to more transience as neighbourhoods slip into decline and long-standing residents want to move on. That’s why the marker of success in regenerating Malmo in Sweden was a decrease in the turnover of tenancies.
The much vaunted Private Rented Sector Task Force overseeing the £1bn Build to Rent fund launched last week, and a number of big players in regeneration are in the running. As many as 10,000 new private rented homes may be built – and stable renting should be offered in many of these.
It’s a small dent for the 1.3 million families renting now, but here’s hoping that the success of the schemes – not just for renters, but for communities and investors – could give politicians confidence that a wider roll out of stable renting is worth pursuing.