Labour-commissioned review of rental market set for release soon after locals

Tom Belger

A review of the private rental market and potential reforms commissioned by Labour is close to completion, with publication expected soon after the local elections, LabourList can reveal.

Former Shadow Levelling Up and Housing Secretary Lisa Nandy asked Stephen Cowan, long-standing Labour leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council in west London, to lead the review in early 2023, saying it would “drive forward” plans for a new renters’ charter.

A draft of the review has now been completed. One source stressed it was an independent review, while another predicted it would include some bold proposals. Labour is expected to consider it in detail once it has been published.

The party will have to take stock of what, if anything, the Tories manage to get through parliament, depending on the fate of the renters’ reform bill, now threatened by Tory divisions.

LabourList understands the party is likely to bring forward further proposals but now unlikely to present them as a charter, as some potential reforms may have passed already in the government’s legislation.

Another source familiar with the review said they had noticed a recent shift in language, with the term term “renters’ charter” itself seemingly not used in Parliament since last July. They hoped party policy would remain ambitious as any scaling back would be “concerning”. They urged the party to engage fully with the report.

Labour has made a series of pledges already to make renting fairer, more secure and affordable, including banning no-fault evictions, extending Awaab’s law to the private rented sector and taking action on rent bidding wars. It has sought to make amendments to the Tories’ bill.

It comes on the same day London mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to build at least 6,000 new “rent control homes” in London if re-elected, saying they will see rents capped and linked to key worker incomes.

Khan also vowed to be a “renters’ champion”, working with the Labour government to deliver a “new deal for renters” in the capital.  Other proposals include up to £4m for a “licensing hub” to help councils support renters, funding groups like renters’ unions, investing in advice for renters, and supporting renters to get rent rebates. He also said he’d work with a future Labour government to “ensure licensing powers can be used to take action against the poorest-performing landlords”.

Nandy said in 2022 she was “personally very interested” in allowing local mayors and council leaders to impose rent controls, but warned last June they council “leave others homeless” and prove a “sticking plaster”. Nandy has been subsequently replaced in her brief by deputy leader Angela Rayner.

One source told LabourList they did not expect Cowan’s report to recommend rent controls.

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