Dear Prime Minister,
You have arrived in office in the middle of a housing emergency. Almost 280,000 people are homeless in England, including 123,000 children. Half of young people have no chance of ever buying a home, and millions are trapped in expensive and unstable private renting.
Clearly this emergency is crying out for some sort of ‘DUDE’ moment of its own.
Your predecessor took a vital step towards improving the lives of England’s 11 million private renters when she unveiled plans to abolish ‘no-fault’ evictions. A move that would protect families and pensioners from being turfed out of their homes with only eight weeks’ notice, and wipe out the corrosive practice of revenge evictions by rogue landlords.
You can make these plans a reality by seeing through the crucial legislation a Conservative government has already committed to. Doing so will not only make life better for a large number of people – it will build your credibility with a key group of voters, whose ballot papers may be critical in deciding the outcome of the next election.
The ‘rent-quake’ is no minor tremor
Weak legal protections and a blatant imbalance of power has seen private renters suffer for years. They made sure Westminster felt their pain in the 2017 General Election with a decisive swing towards Labour, and one of the biggest swings away from the Conservatives. Further analysis by Number Cruncher Politics in 2018 showed the Conservatives a staggering 22 points behind Labour with private renters in marginal seats.
Our nation’s renters are in desperate need of a ‘love-bomb’
For us – and I hope for you – this is about more than winning votes. A safe and stable home is a fundamental human need. So, it is horrifying that Harry Albert Lettings, reacted with impunity to the government’s consultation on ending ‘no-fault’ evictions by sending ‘no-fault’ eviction notices to six tenants. Such an abuse of power should have no place in this country.
Making private renting better is only half the battle
For older people and those in lower-paid jobs who simply cannot buy or keep pace with the high cost of private rents, there has to be a better alternative.
We have relied on the sticking plaster that is housing benefit for too long. But it’s already failing to do its job thanks to years of welfare cuts, which must be reversed. Why not invest in a new generation of secure and genuinely affordable social homes for the future? Boosting the number of social homes available would reduce our growing dependency on a faulty benefits system and give millions the chance of a stable home.
If you’re on the side of social mobility, you should be on side with social housing
Social homes are quite literally the building blocks of a more prosperous and united nation. You have promised to open the tap on major new infrastructure projects, and a historic renewal of social housebuilding must be part of this. The National Housing Federation’s recent research suggests every £1 spent on social housing would generate at least £5, boosting the economy in a balanced and sustainable way.
Business leaders would almost certainly be thankful for your efforts to overcome the barrier of high-housing costs that make it increasingly difficult for them to recruit workers locally.
And, given the government already spends about £10bn each year on roads – another important area of infrastructure – it’s not unrealistic to think we should be spending as much, if not more, on solving the housing crisis.
You’ve talked about your record of building 100,000 affordable homes during your time as the Mayor of London, nearly half of which were social. But last year, only a paltry 6,000 social homes were built across the whole of England. Have you got what it takes to reverse this decay?
We need three million more social homes over the next twenty years to provide: a lifeline for rough sleepers and homeless families; an opportunity for ‘trapped renters’ to get on in life; and peace of mind for older renters struggling in their retirement.
If you want to go down in the history books as the man who fixed the housing crisis, then we look forward to working with you to make that happen.
The social and economic benefits would be huge: the political ones will be too.