The Labour dominated council in Bristol has written to Housing Secretary Michael Gove demanding that he gives it the powers to improve private sector rent controls - even though that appears to be against Labour policy.
Speaking to a Chartered Institute of Housing conference last week the Shadow Housing Secretary, Lisa Nandy MP, said: “As the mortgage crisis deepens - for homeowners and renters alike - it is perhaps inevitable that the debate has turned again to short term fixes.
“And when housebuilding is falling off a cliff and buy-to-let landlords are leaving the market, rent controls that cut rents for some, will almost certainly leave others homeless. It might be politically easier to put a sticking plaster on our deep-seated problems, but if it is cowardice that got us here, it is never going to get us out."
However, Bristol council's demand, made in a letter to the Housing Secretary, appears to sharply contradict the official party policy. The council included with the letter a copy of a report by the Bristol Living Rent Commission, set up by the authority last year.
Summarising the report in the covering letter to Gove, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees says: “In the 2021 mayoral manifesto, we pledged to make Bristol a ‘living rent city’ and lobby central government for rent control powers. As a core city and local authority, we have been using our existing powers to try and address the issues of affordability, quality, and access within the PRS, including the roll out of licensing schemes and building new homes.
“2,563 new homes were built in Bristol in 2021/22, exceeding our ambitious targets, including the largest number of new affordable homes in more than a decade. 90% of these new homes were built on previously developed land.
“Despite our best efforts, our ability to meaningfully influence PRS affordability is limited and for too long, those who live in private rented accommodation have not had adequate protections.
“In Bristol, 29% of households rent their accommodation from a private landlord which is significantly above the UK national average of 19%. Spiralling private renting costs are having a negative impact on the sustainability, productivity, and resilience of our city. We are seeing Bristol residents pushed further from their place of work, family, and support networks.
“The Bristol Living Rent Commission was launched to look at issues in the city’s PRS and assess ways to address rising costs, as well as the lack of security that renters have. The commission was made up of sector experts, tenants, and landlords. The commission found that there is popular support for rent control in Bristol as a response to affordability problems.”
Marvin Rees’ position as Mayor of Bristol was abolished in a referendum vote by some 56,113 people in May 2022; the position officially ends in spring 2024.
Now Rees - one of the country’s most outspoken advocates of rent controls for private landlords - wants to become a Labour MP in the city, posting on Twitter that he has applied to become the party’s parliamentary candidate for the Bristol North East constituency. This is a new constituency created by a boundary review; it will be the fifth seat in Bristol.
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