Labour Party conference: Jeremy Corbyn promises rent control

At the party's conference in Brighton on Wednesday, the Labour leader says private tenants in British cities deserve controlled rents, and pledged to comprehensively review social housing policy

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged to bring controlled rents to the private sector during his conference speech in Brighton today.

His rhetoric appeared to push the party further than its 2017 manifesto – a promise to consult on regulating rent rises above inflation.

“Rent controls exist in many cities across the world and I want our cities to have those powers too and tenants to have those protections,” Corbyn told delegates.

The National Landlords Association has referred to rent control as “an inflammatory term.” Right-leaning economists argue that imposing restrictions on owners’ ability to raise rents inevitably cuts the supply of much-needed rental properties.

But as Corbyn mentions, many cities in Europe and the US do have various forms of rent control.

In France, Germany and Spain, maximum annual rent rises are established at the outset of longer tenancy agreements, often lasting between three to five years.

Two years ago, Berlin brought it tougher legislation in a bid to tackle steep rises in the city. Landlords were banned from increasing rents by more than 10% above the local average.

Rent controls exist in many cities across the world and I want our cities to have those powers too

Rent control has some history in this country too. Rent caps were introduced during the Second World War, then held in place in the aftermath to stop landlords exploiting soldiers returning home.

After a long post-war period of an uncontrolled market, the Rent Act of 1977 gave tenants greater rights and some stability in increases, with local authority officers having some powers to set maximum rents.

The cycle ended in 1988 when the Thatcher government, convinced the private rented sector had become too restricted, abolished all controls.

Corbyn also used his conference speech to attack regeneration schemes that had displaced residents from central London.

He promised people who lived on estates earmarked for redevelopment would have the right to remain after refurbishment or demolition. “No social cleaning,” he said.

Previous Labour leader Ed Miliband also made significant housing promises. He wanted to implement three-year tenancies in the private sector with rent rises agreed at the outset, and introduce a national register of landlords.

It remains to be seen whether his successor can become 10 Downing Street’s next tenant, and what kind of rent controls a Labour government would actually enact.

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