Shadow Housing Secretary Lucy Powell has called for increased regulation of private landlords, particularly those with tenants on housing benefit, at the Housing 2021 conference in Manchester.
“On housing benefits we spend a huge amount every year, most of which goes to the private rented sector, and we ask nothing in return from that money,” Powell noted, adding that licensing and registration schemes for private landlords could be on the table under a future Labour government.
Powell has also been a fierce critic of the government’s response to the building safety crisis in the wake of the Grenfell fire. On Tuesday night she told Newsnight: “This building safety crisis goes beyond Grenfell and cladding and is a crisis in confidence affecting every tall building in the country and leaving leaseholders and residents in uninsurable, unmortgageable, unsellable homes.” She added that the government’s £5bn fund, while welcome, is not having the desired effect and urged it to “step up and take responsibility to assess, fix and certify every building in this country.”
Returning to the theme at Housing 2021, Powell suggested that a Labour government could use work that is already planned to tackle the climate crisis as a means simultaneously improving building safety: “Ed Miliband has been calling on the government to bring forward the £30bn climate stimulus. In the context of the building safety crisis there is work that needs to be done there, but as we are doing that, we could also be doing the retrofitting at the same time. The building safety crisis cannot wait until the next election.”
The Manchester Central MP also took the opportunity to praise the city’s mayor, Andy Burnham, for his work with the homeless during the Covid pandemic. Burnham frequently clashed with the Westminster government over funding and policy during the pandemic, earning him the title “King of the North” in the tabloid press. He has also been widely touted as a potential successor to current Labour leader Keir Starmer.
Powell commented: “Andy Burnham’s leadership on homelessness in Manchester has been phenomenal and it shows what you can do. He doesn’t have direct powers over those issues, but those soft powers as directly elected mayor have been exemplified here in Manchester.”
Lucy Powell Image courtesy David Woolfall/Creative Commons.