Many politicians are still blind to the importance of the private rented sector, and its relevance to those looking for a home. Just 2% of councillors surveyed put PRS top of their perceived priorities for improving the supply of housing.
The disappointing result comes from research carried out by the Smith Institute on behalf of housing provider Places for People. The study asked councillors and officials for their views on a variety of issues around housing, and discovered that while 60% thought owner occupied properties were the top priority, and 38% placed social housing top, just 2% perceived the private rented sector as needing top priority.
“Despite local authorities’ best efforts, clear appetite from investors, and strong emphasis from central government, this work shows us that more needs to be done to make it happen,” said David Cowans, chief executive of Places for People. “Councils have a key role to play in using their planning and economic growth levers to create the right environment to attract investment into this vital sector and drive up standards for tenants.”
A few local authorities are the exception, understanding the importance of PRS and taking a proactive stance. These include Birmingham which is planning to develop its own private rented sector homes, and Wandsworth which has recently approved plans for a major residential scheme with a substantial private rented element.
Paul Hackett from the Smith Institute, which carried out the research, summarised the issues raised. “Our survey shows that councils are cautious about the PRS. They want to improve the security of tenancies and housing quality, but struggle to regulate the PRS in their areas. The government needs to do more to help councils lift the quality bar across the sector.”
While just 51% of councillors thought their local plan actively supported the private rented sector, two thirds were in favour of relaxing section 106 agreements, to favour projects with a significant proportion of PRS homes.