She also told the crowd, most of which were landlords, that her four children were all private renters and Conservative voters aged in their late 20s and 30s.
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The housing minister’s language has faced criticism from rent campaigners with some accusing Maclean of showing “utter contempt” for renters.
Liam Miller, spokesperson for the London Renters Union said: “These comments show the utter contempt the government has for renters. By refusing to cap rents or end the sell-off of our public housing, this government has created a rental crisis that is pushing millions into hardship and many out of their homes altogether.
“In this context, it is outrageous that the housing minister would suggest that only some people deserve better. The government must stop pandering to the landlord lobby and put the safety and security of all renters first by finally bringing in the Renters Reform Bill and taking action against skyrocketing rents.”
Nick Ballard, head organiser at tenants union ACORN told The Big Issue that, while Maclean was joking, the housing minister’s words may not going down well with renters with a general election on the horizon.
“Rachel Maclean’s in-joke with the landlord lobby yesterday just goes to show the contempt with which tenants are viewed by landlords and the Tory party,” said Ballard.
“Classist jokes aside, we think the Conservatives should focus on the issue at hand: that since they promised to ban no-fault evictions 1,628 days ago, renters have still been turfed out in our thousands.
“What Maclean’s comments do highlight is that the Tories will be punished in the next election if they continue to ignore the needs of England’s 11 million private renters.
“Runaway rents, poor quality and unsafe housing, and lack of security are key areas they need to get a grip of if they want to stand a chance of appealing to generation rent, a key constituency for political success in the polls.”
Speculation in recent weeks has suggested that the Renters Reform Bill will not receive a second reading in parliament until after the King’s Speech on 7 November.
Housing secretary Michael Gove reportedly confirmed in a speech at a Shelter event during the Tory conference that the bill would be debated by MPs for the first time in the coming weeks. But Gove neglected to mention the Renters Reform Bill in his conference address on Tuesday.
Ben Twomey, chief executive of Generation Rent, said Maclean’s words and a lack of government action is leaving renters worried.
“It’s clear that the minister was trying to make a point to some party activists who have never taken the housing crisis, or the renter vote seriously,” said Twomey. “But to the renters in the room, including Conservative members, and who saw these comments on social media, the remarks were jarring to say the least and we need reassurance that the government is on our side against the bad landlords.
“Ultimately, we’ve had a lot of words from the government about reform while renters continue to face threats of homelessness and mouldy homes that too many landlords ignore. What renters need from the government is action, and they need it now.”
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Ben Beadle, chief executive of the NRLA said the government needs “the confidence of the vast majority of responsible landlords” for a thriving housing market.
Beadle added: “When section 21 repossessions end, landlords need certainty that the courts will more swiftly process possession claims where there is good cause.”
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