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Government would be 'stupid' not to cap private rents, says social housing boss

Government would be 'stupid' not to cap private rents, says social housing boss

The Government would be “incomprehensibly stupid” not to consider capping rents in the private sector.

The remark was made by a leading figure in the social housing sector, and immediately pounced upon by a private landlord organisation.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, trade body for social landlords, told his organisation’s annual conference that private rents are close to a record high, but the Government was too frightened even to start a conversation about introducing rent controls.

The Residential Landlords Association said it was “surprised” that Orr had “failed to recognise that landlords in the private rented sector in the year between May 2012 and May 2013 oversaw rent increases well below inflation at just 1.3% (just 0.8% when London is taken out of the figures)”.

Speaking ahead of the Labour party conference at which the issue of rent controls will be considered at a fringe event organised by the RLA, chairman Alan Ward commented: “I am disappointed by David Orr’s refusal to accept basic housing economics.

“His calls for rent controls are based largely on a select few areas of London boroughs that have seen rents rise as a result of an acute housing shortage across all tenures.

“Private sector landlords would no doubt be able to keep costs down if they too enjoyed the kind of public subsidies enjoyed by housing associations.

“Rent controls are the same as using a sticking plaster to treat the flu.

“The problem David Orr highlights is one of supply, which would be critically undermined by capping rents.”

Also in his speech, Orr called for the planning system to be given to officers and taken away from elected councillors who were often voted in on tiny minorities opposed to house building.

He said this brought them into a conflict between long-term planning goals and short-term politics.

He said planning should be visionary and that if officers became responsible for it, large-scale house building could get under way in many parts of the country.

Orr said such a move had a precedent: 30 years ago, council housing was allocated by councillors, a job now done by officers.