Why we need more decent homes in the PRS

The debate about who and where is being levelled up started in earnest when the Government published its white paper, including a pledge to get private rented houses in order. 

The government press release contained pledges related to the private rented sector, though we need to wait for another white paper on renters reform to see the detail. 

However we know enough to applaud the commitment to reducing the number of homes in the PRS that fail the decent homes standard. 

The proportion of PRS homes that don’t meet the standard halved over the last decade and the government has pledged to halve it again by 2030. This is good news. The landlord sector has done a lot to improve standards but the promised crackdown on bad landlords is necessary.  

Nearly a quarter of properties in the PRS do not meet the decent homes standard. Households receiving benefits who have fewer housing options are most likely to live in sub-standard homes. 

London councillors and parliamentarians have been quick to point out that levelling up isn’t a north-south issue. There are 165,000 Londoners in temporary accommodation, which accounts for two-thirds of the total in England. These households, many with children, need levelling up too, say a London Councils and London MPs. 

Capital Letters was created by councils in London to find private rented properties so families could move out of temporary accommodation. Finding properties at local housing allowance rates remains challenging as the privately rented market becomes more buoyant. 

The latest government homelessness figures released last week showed that the private rented sector is now providing housing for proportionally more families at risk of homelessness.  

The PRS has grown steadily over recent times; we need it to play a larger role in offering homes to families who are either in temporary accommodation or at risk of homelessness.  

In 2019, social housing accounted for about 60% of discharges of main duty by councils in London with that number already starting to fall before the pandemic. By autumn last year, less than half (46%) of discharges were to social housing, while the use of the PRS nearly doubled to about 30% of discharges of main duty. 

To meet the government’s objective of improving standards in the PRS while reducing the alarming numbers of people in temporary accommodation, particularly in London, requires collaboration with private landlords, councils and the government.  

The recent National Audit Office report on private renting concluded that government must do more to support local authorities determined to improve standards in their area. The next white paper will need show how this can be done, including the expected national landlord register. 

In fact, Capital Letters only accepts properties that meet the higher quality and safety criteria demanded of our member councils. We work with landlords who provide good quality properties – so families have a safe and secure home to put down roots. There just needs to be more of them.