At the Labour party conference, Labour has pledged £20 million to help fund a tenants’ union in order to give tenants more power.
The Labour pledge of £20 million to set up a tenant’s union is aimed at supporting millions of private tenants across England. There is no mention of what will happen in the devolved areas. This tenants’ union is aimed to build on similar organisations in Germany.
The £20 million will be staggered over a 3-year period and help towards start-up costs of the proposed tenants’ union. Organisations, similar to the tenancy deposit organisations will be eligible to bid for the money to assist with the set up but it hoped that they will become self-funding. The organisations will be funded in the long-term through members’ subscription fees again similar to those paid to tenancy deposit schemes and provide advice, advocacy and representation for private rental tenants.
John Healey, the Labour shadow housing Secretary has said:
“Labour’s new commitment is clear. We will give renters new rights to control rental costs, improve conditions and increase security. Renters’ unions help put power in the hands of tenants.”
John Healey, has also pledged to introduce a levy on second homes and use the money to assist with the ongoing and increasing homelessness problem. The levy will apply to second homes used as holiday homes and could be the equivalent to double the current rate of council tax.
There has also been a pledge to end no-fault evictions, new minimum standards and controls on rents. Finally, Labour plans to set up an English Sovereign Land Trust with a view to make more land available at a price which will prevent windfall profits to landowners. It is hoped that the English Sovereign Land Trust will also enforce affordable housing requirements against developers failing to adhere to their obligations.
This policy is clearly seeking to capitalise on the tenant vote which the Labour party believes will favour them. Whether tenant’s will be prepared to pay for a tenant union is unclear. Landlords will be worried that the second home levy will also morph into a landlord levy, further reducing their incentive to stay in the sector.