A UN Special Rapporteur who visited the UK in 2013 to assess whether residents have access to adequate housing has described conditions in the private rented sector as a “housing crisis”. Although the UK Government invited planning expert Raquel Rolnik to carry out the research, Ministers have since dismissed her report as a “misleading Marxist diatribe” and she has been subjected to xenophobic abuse in the right-wing press.
The full report, which is written in an accessible style and contains an excellent potted history of UK housing policy, can be downloaded from the UN website (downloads as .doc file). It covers a wide range of issues including the bedroom tax, social housing, and provision for gypsies and travellers, but Rolnik also manages to make some important points about the private rented sector. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing yourself, the edited highlights (from a PRS perspective) are as follows:
Paragraph 24. The Special Rapporteur considers that the United Kingdom faces a critical situation in terms of availability, affordability and access to adequate housing, particularly in some geographic areas… The lack of housing “is not just a recessionary phenomenon: housing supply has failed to respond adequately to high levels of demand for decades”.
Paragraph 26. … [I]t is clear that social and affordable housing is especially scarce, waiting lists for social rental housing have grown, homelessness rates have increased, and the private rented sector has expanded to become the only option for many despite its insecure tenure. In April 2012, facing a waiting list that had grown by 81 per cent (since 1997) in England, councils noted that they would be compelled to use more private rentals, particularly to provide emergency accommodation. As many as 1.4 million properties — 35 per cent of the private rented sector — do not meet the Decent Homes Standard. In the Special Rapporteur’s view, this can be described as a housing crisis.
Paragraph 34. For many, private tenancy is the only option. However, there are significant problems, such as insecurity of tenure, poor management practices and discrimination against specific population groups by landlords and letting agents. In areas of high demand, like London, these problems can be severe. …
Paragraph 80. …[T]he Special Rapporteur wishes to make the following recommendations to the central Government and devolved administrations, as applicable:
…(g) Increase regulation and enhance information and accountability in relation to the private rented sector; adopt regulatory tenancy protections, including minimum length of contracts, restraints on rent increases and strict limits on eviction; encourage the use of standardized human rights-compliant rental contracts; enhance mechanisms of registration of landlords and letting agents, and establish clear accountability mechanisms to eliminate discrimination in the private rented sector;
EPTAG isn’t going to argue with any of that.