With tenants across many parts of the country facing rents rising faster than people’s incomes, the local mayor or Bristol, and Labour and parliamentary candidate ahead of the next general election, is calling for the introduction of rent controls.
Marvin Rees believes there is a need for rent controls in the housing market, particularly in booming areas like Bristol, as private tenants face some of the highest prices outside the capital.
The Bristol mayor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There has been no real change in our regulatory powers as a local authority to keep up with the changing nature of the housing market. We are taking old tools to new challenges.”
In Bristol, over the last decade, rents have gone up about 52% and wages have gone up 24%
On rent controls, he said: “I recognise there is complexity but what we certainly need is intervention in the rental market.
“Whether you call that control or not is up to you, but there needs to be an intervention because allowing this Wild West of the rental market with rents growing out of all pace to people’s income…
“What we have at the moment in Bristol is, over the last decade, rents have gone up about 52% and wages have gone up 24%.
“You can see there is a huge price to be paid for that, not just in the individuals impacted, by the way.
He continued: “A good-quality home is one of the most significant public health interventions we can make that will give us more resilience against future pandemics such as Covid.
“It means that we can actually recruit teachers and nurses to Bristol, which we are struggling to do now because of the affordability.
“It makes for more settled communities.”
He said Bristol has set up a living rent commission, including council representatives, tenants’ groups, housing developers and landlords, to look at the housing market in the area and come up with recommendations to ensure people can live there.
Among the various issues the housing sector may have to look at is whether there should be more things to make it easier for landlords to provide privately rented properties, as some say there are more tax breaks for people who provide holiday lets than for those who provide the kind of places that people can live in for a long time.
Rees added: “We have to recognise that some landlords just will be very small people who have invested in a property for their pension. That does not make them bad, that just means that whatever has happened to them financially in our pensions system has not supported people so they are driven to a cannibalisation of the housing market. We have to take that into account.
“It has to be part of a wider approach that means building homes as well.”