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Three quarters of Brits back rent controls to solve England’s housing crisis

A new Ipsos poll finds a lack of affordable homes and surging house prices are the biggest housing problems facing Britain today.

rent controls

Rent controls have gained support among the public but the UK Government has ruled them out. Image: "https://unsplash.com/photos/EeI2kJY3L5A"> Ethan Wilkinson / Unsplash

Almost three quarters of Brits back the introduction of rent controls to tackle the housing crisis in England, according to a new poll.

Capping rents so they do not rise above inflation has garnered support at a time when the cost of living crisis is seeing households hit by surging inflation rates and rents hitting record levels.

In total 72 per cent of the 2,161 adults quizzed in the Ipsos poll backed rent controls while only 7 per cent opposed it.

Ben Marshall, research director at Ipsos, which carried out the survey, said: “It is a sign of the pessimism surrounding housing in Britain that people expect things to get worse in terms of the two features of the housing crisis they consider to be the most important – rising house prices and building enough affordable homes.

“It is not that they see governments as unable to do anything about housing; there continues to be a strong sense of ‘do something’ and ongoing support for different policy responses. The extension of Right to Buy receives majority support but so too do rent controls and giving local government more powers to tackle second and empty homes.”

Rent controls have been floated as a solution in Labour’s 2019 General Election manifesto while London Mayor Sadiq Khan has repeatedly called for the government to allow him to introduce controls in the English capital.

So far, Westminster ministers have declined to introduce rent controls and the policy was absent from the government’s recently announced rental reforms.

But the new Ipsos poll showed there is significant public support for the policy.

Speaking in a written parliamentary question last month, housing minister Eddie Hughes said: “The government does not support the introduction of rent controls. Historical evidence suggests that rent controls would discourage investment in the sector and would lead to declining property standards as a result, which would not help landlords or tenants.

“Recent international examples also suggest that rent controls can have an inadvertent negative impact on the supply of housing and may encourage more illegal subletting.”

Brits believe a lack of affordable homes and rising house prices remain the biggest issues driving the housing crisis. In total 36 per cent identified the issues as the biggest barriers while just under three in 10 Brits identified the lack of social housing and high rents as long-running problems.

Britons are most likely to identify the lack of affordable homes and high house prices as among the biggest problems with housing in Britain today – both are identified by 36 per cent of people. Around three in 10 say the lack of social housing is a key problem (29 per cent) while 28 per cent say rents are too high.

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Two-thirds of those polled said they expect house prices to increase in their local area in the next 12 months, continuing a run of consecutive monthly rises that have seen house prices hit new records this year. 

People living in the east and the south of England are braced for the biggest rises followed by the West Midlands and Scotland, while 69 per cent believe prices will rise nationally. 

As a result, most people told Ipsos the next 12 months would be a good time to sell rather than buy a home.

Only 18 per cent of people think that the surging price of a home is a good thing for Britain but, unsurprisingly, the renters and homeowners are split on what it means for them personally. Four in 10 homeowners believe rising prices are good for them personally, while just under 60 per cent of tenants insist it means the opposite for them.

While rent controls have been mooted as one solution to Britain’s housing woes, more than half of those polled backed Boris Johnson’s extension to the Right to Buy scheme that will see tenants who rent from housing associations given the chance to buy their home.

There was also support for giving powers to local councils to increase council tax on second homes and homes left empty for more than six months, with two-thirds of Brits backing the policy which appeared in the Lib Dems’ 2019 manifesto.

Labour’s own 2019 policy to build 100,000 council homes and 50,000 housing association properties a year in England for the next five years also gained the approval of 53 per cent of Brits.

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