Election 'last chance to fix broken renting system' - as leaders urged to make 'serious policy offer'

The general election may be "the last chance" to fix the UK's "broken renting system", housing organisations have warned as they called on party leaders to come up with bolder solutions to the crisis.

In an open letter to Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer, groups representing tenants said thousands more people "face homelessness, poverty and exploitation" unless a "serious policy offer" is put on the table.

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It comes as one renter told Sky News how he has been priced out of his home following a 40% increase in rent - despite the flat having "an excessive mould issue".

The groups, including the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and Generation Rent, want all party leaders to commit to rent controls, a full ban on no-fault evictions and greater investment in social housing.

In the letter, shared exclusively with Sky News, they said: "As organisations representing and working with tens of thousands of private renters across the UK, we are warning the next government that the housing emergency is set to deepen unless major action is taken as part of a serious housing policy offer.

"This could be the last chance to fix our broken renting system before countless more renters face homelessness, poverty and exploitation. "

Average UK rents have been increasing well above average wage rises in recent years, with Londoners facing cumulative increases of over 31% since 2021 and similar rises in other parts of England and Wales.

'Priced out of my home'

For Michele Tellarini, who was "priced out" of his two-bed flat in Lewisham after the rent soared from £1400 to £2000 per month, the issue is having a "devastating impact" on his life.

The customer service worker says he and his two flatmates, a couple, earn below the London living wage so they have repeatedly been turned away from estate agents who say their collective salary is too low for them to rent somewhere new together.

This has forced them to go their separate ways - but Michele has also struggled to find a spare room for himself due to "obscene" prices and competition.

He told Sky News: "The crazy thing is when you message someone for a room, they maybe have received 30 to 40 messages and then you try and get it for the price but there is someone else who offers more."

To add insult to injury, the flat they can no longer afford to stay in has had an "excessive mould issue" which he claims the landlord told him to "just deal with".

"It's devastating. I have been having panic attacks," he said.

"I have lived In London for six years - every time I have moved I have been pushed out because I can't afford to live there anymore.

"It's normalised (when you rent) but it has a huge impact, you are never able to feel like a place is your area."

Leaders urged to adopt three key measures

Michele, 31, backs calls for rent controls to be introduced.

Critics of this policy say it would force landlords out of the market or discourage them from investing in the upkeep of their properties.

But the letter from housing groups said said the "skyrocketing cost of housing" is fuelling a 49% rise in evictions and means a record number of children now live in temporary accommodation.

"The reason for this crisis is an overreliance on unregulated private landlords to meet the nation's housing needs," the letter said.

It added that the government is effectively subsidising landlords by spending billions on housing support for people in private rented accommodation - money that could be better spent on social housing.

NEF research in January found the government will pay an estimated £70bn in housing benefit and other support to private landlords over the next five years - six times more than the £11.5bn they will spend on building affordable homes up until 2026.

Other signatories of the letter, which was also addressed to Ed Davey and the co-leaders of the Green party, include ACORN, the London Renters Union and the Greater Manchester Tenants Union.

The groups said the next government "must urgently prioritise the right to housing for its citizens over the profits of landlords" and adopt three measures:

• Abolishing no-fault evictions "in full and without loopholes", requiring landlords to sell a home with a sitting tenant if they wish to stay;
• Rent regulation so that no one should have to spend more than 30% of their income on rent;
• Ending Right to Buy and investing in a "huge public housebuilding programme" to deliver 3.1 million council homes over 20 years - including funding for local authorities to convert privately rented homes into social housing.

"We urge you to engage with these proposals and be bold in addressing one of the most urgent social crises Britain faces", the letter states.

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What are the parties offering on housing?

Housing hasn't featured particularly heavily in the general election campaign, which has so far been dominated by tax and spending.

But all parties have made pledges to sort out Britain's housing crisis - which at its heart is a problem of lack of supply and spiralling unaffordability.

The Green Party is the only party that has backed rent controls in its manifesto, with the other parties more focused on housebuilding.

Labour's headline offer to voters is to overhaul the planning system to build 1.5 million homes over the next five years. The party has also committed to banning no-fault evictions - a promise the Conservatives made in their last manifesto in 2019 but did not follow through on before the election was called.

The Tories, who also failed to deliver on their 2019 promise to build 300,000 homes a year, have pledged to build 1.6m homes over the next parliament, in part by abolishing legacy EU rules on nutrient neutrality.

The Lib Dems have set a housebuilding target of 380,000 homes per year, including 150,000 social homes.