A Parliamentary inquiry by a group of Northern MPs and Peers is to investigate property standards in the North’s private rented sector.
The inquiry will be the core focus of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Housing in the North during its work programme for 2019 and 2020.
A call for evidence has been issued and the inquiry held its first session earlier this week, where it heard from the secretariat, the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC), along with Citizens’ Advice, the Residential Landlords Association, and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health among others.
The inquiry aims to explore the current standard of the private rented sector in the North, identify positive practice and make recommendations for how government could support the North to raise standards in the sector.
Chaired by Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, the APPG Housing in the North provides a forum for Parliamentarians to discuss and advance housing and related policy across the three Northern regions and seeks to ensure the needs and ambitions of Northern communities are addressed in housing policy development.
“The poor standards of accommodation across much of the private rented sector are a hazard for everyone living in those properties,” Mearns said. “Due in no small part to selling off large swathes of good social housing, the private rented sector houses some of the most vulnerable people in our society and the time is long overdue for taking action to address this.
“We will be taking evidence from experts and visiting problem areas over the next few months. We will present our findings to the government along with recommendations, which we hope will help to improve the living conditions for many people. It is not acceptable in the 21st century for so many tenants to be living in sub-standard and often dangerous homes.”
According to the APPG, the substantial growth in the private rented sector has been one of the “most significant” developments in most Northern housing markets over the past 10-15 years. It now accounts for 20% of housing, up from just 9% 15 years ago.
The majority of landlords provide stable and safe accommodation for their tenants, but in some parts of the sector, the housing is of poor quality. This is not only detrimental for individual tenants but can be a blight on neighbourhoods.
Despite recent efforts to drive out rogue landlords and bring regulation to the sector, the private rented sector still had the highest proportion of households living in non-decent homes by the end of 2017 at 27%. That is, their home is not in a reasonable state of repair, doesn’t have reasonably modern facilities and services, or has ineffective insulation or heating.
In the report it will present to Government once the inquiry is complete, the APPG hopes to offer recommendations on the policy levers that are available to enforce and raise a baseline of standards in all private rented stock.
The inquiry will provide an important Northern perspective in the debate on what a healthy PRS should look like as part of a functioning local housing market.
“As secretariat we’re delighted to support the APPG in conducting this Inquiry,” said Tracy Harrison, the NHC’s chief executive. “Property standards in the North’s [private rented sector] emerged as one of the key themes in our research collaboration with the Smith Institute last year and it’s great to see Parliamentarians take up an issue so important to our members.
“Our membership includes local authorities and housing associations which gives us a unique perspective on the housing needs of local Northern markets and we’re looking forward to working with members, Parliamentarians and other partners to raise standards in the sector.”