Nandy: Labour will explore powers for mayors and councils to freeze rents

Kieran Maxwell

Labour’s Lisa Nandy has said she is exploring the possibility of handing new powers to metro mayors and local council leaders that would allow them to freeze rents.

Speaking at a Labour Party conference fringe on the private rented sector on Tuesday, the Shadow Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary told attendees that she is “personally very interested and attracted by the idea”.

“Local mayors and council leaders should be able to make decisions to freeze rent increases in there local areas over the winter. And I’ve asked my team to look at that to see if we can work that up into a workable proposal. I think doing nothing is not an option,” she said.

The comments followed her conference announcement for sweeping reforms to the housing sector, including a commitment to build more council housing, rebalance home ownership towards first-time buyers and introduce reforms to empower people in the private rented sector.

Nandy was also firm on leasehold reform, telling those at the event: “We want to get rid of leasehold. It is a feudal system.”

Nandy said Labour would cap and regulate service charges on leaseholds, make them more transparent and give leaseholders the ability to challenge service charges with legal protections. She added that it is “very much part of the package that what we intend introduce guidance as part of the legislation”.

Challenged over the contrast between her conference speech, where she called for “council housing, council housing, council housing”, and that of Keir Starmer who made a commitment to 70% home ownership in his keynote speech, she said: “This is all part of one story for us, about how we get people into the form of housing tenure that works for them.”

Nandy expressed her support for the licensing system for second homes that has been established by the Welsh Labour government, but also said that there is still a place for second homeowners and the private rented sector.

“There are many people who have bought a second property and let it out, are a very good landlord, it’s a long-term prospect for them, they keep it in good standards and they make a bit of income to supplement a pension,” Nandy said, adding: “We absolutely want those people to stay in the sector.”

Nandy used her conference speech to outline a series of housing policies aimed at boosting council housebuilding and homeownership, telling delegates that housing is not a market but a “fundamental human right”.

She pledged to introduce a white paper to make renting fairer, more secure and more affordable within the first 100 days, setting out how longer-term tenancies will become the norm. She also said the paryt will consult with landlord and tenant groups on how best to stabilise rent increases within tenancies.

According to the party’s plan, it will seek to give tenants more choice and control over their homes, including ending automatic evictions for rent arrears, scrapping ‘no-fault evictions’ and introducing a national register of landlords.

The Shadow Housing Secretary also outlined plans to “significantly boost” council home building and reform buying rules to “rebalance power between developers and communities and bring in a new generation of council house building”.

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