The Government should consider changing tax rules, benefit payments and planning regulations to help more young people get affordable accommodation within the private rented sector, a group of MPs says today.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Private Rented Sector says a range of issues including council powers to prevent properties being turned into shared homes to rent, and housing benefit restrictions for the under-35s could be making it more difficult for young people to rent in the private sector.
The Group’s report calls for:
- The Government and local authorities to look at whether planning powers, specifically Article 4 Directions, are unduly restricting the supply of new private homes for rent. The MPs’ group says the powers can be a useful tool but it should be easier for landlords to rent out shared homes to families, and then turn them back into use as houses in multiple occupation.
- A full review of the Shared Accommodation Rate rules, which means single people under 35 can now only claim housing benefit equivalent to a room in a shared house, to see whether the changes mean not enough housing is available at the right rent for those who need it.
- Investigating paying housing benefit directly to private landlords to encourage more to rent their homes to those on benefits.
- An increase in the ‘rent-a-room’ tax allowance to encourage more homeowners to let rooms to lodgers.
- A ban on council tax being charged for bedsit rooms, or the introduction of a lower band for bedsits, to ensure rented rooms aren’t made unaffordable by more councils charging separate council tax on them.
- A review of VAT rules to encourage more properties to be converted for housing use.
The group’s Conservative chairman Oliver Colvile MP, says fears of “studentification” – the prospect of too many students living in one residential area – are often behind the use of planning powers to restrict conversions to shared housing.
Tenants’ campaign groups say the report doesn’t go far enough.
Alex Hilton, director of Generation Rent, said: “Half of 16-34 year-olds are renting privately and every week two days’ wages goes straight to their landlord. The private rented sector is systematically sucking money from the young and it will take much more than tinkering on the edges to give young people a secure and affordable home.
“The recommendations in this report simply don’t go far enough and in most cases do no more than call for a review. This incremental approach fails to reflect an understanding of the pressure cooker in which renters of all ages are living today. We are counting on MPs to release that pressure, not to keep us simmering.”