Labour’s Chris Leslie the new shadow chancellor replacing Ed Balls, who lost his seat, now regrets Labour’s pre-election Private Rented Sector (PRS) stance of “cracking down” on letting agents plus rent controls and long tenancies for private landlords.
Mr Leslie, a landlord himself, told the Guardian newspaper that the Labour party’s policy of limiting rent increases for tenants had upset people seeking financial returns from their investments in housing by implying that rent rises were exploitative.
The shadow chancellor, who has been appointed by stand-in leader Harriet Harman, has said that Labour should not have implied that ‘landlords are all exploitative and opportunistic’ before the election.
Now recognising that many private landlords are in fact pensioners trying to boost their retirement income, Leslie said that instead of capping rents he would introduce a ‘Help to Build’ scheme to help solve the problems in the housing market.
Instead of a ‘cracking down’ on letting agents, he said he would “encourage local authorities to use digital technology to establish an open marketplace for rental properties”.
“I personally feel that it’s got to be about consumer information, about blasting some transparency through these markets,” he told the Guardian.
In the run-up to the general election several Labour politicians were campaigning hard for drastic changes in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). Many in the industry thought these were anti-landlord policies, some of which, including a ban on letting agent fees charged to tenants, introducing three year minimum tenancies and capping rent increases, were included in Labour’s manifesto.
In political terms were these policies more about election strategy than aiming at practical improvements in the PRS, given that, according to available figures, landlords make up around 3 per cent of the population, whereas voting tenants make up about 15 per cent?