Hundreds of housing campaigners assembled in London yesterday to demand that Westminster introduce rent controls, increase security for tenants and clampdown on rogue letting agents.
“Rent freedom day” was the brainchild of tenant lobbying group Generation Rent, homeless charity Shelter, public-service union Unison and several local groups fighting for renters’ rights.
Sessions covered issues such as organising skills, voter registration and included a “renter hustings” between figures from across the political spectrum.
Author Owen Jones rallied participants in an early morning keynote speech, branding the housing crisis as a “scar” on the country.
“Housing is no longer a right, it’s an asset to make money out of,” said Mr Jones.
“Harassment, bad conditions, repairs not done — too often we are at the mercy of landlords — the law is on their side, not ours.
“We have to keep fighting until rents are controlled, until the government builds more homes, until the law is on our side.”
The action coincided with the publication of new figures by Crisis and the Joseph Rowtree Foundation showing a 9 per cent rise in homelessness and precarious living.
Further research by Generation Rent discovered that more than half of Britons were or knew someone who was struggling to buy or rent a suitable home.
Organisers said they were pleased with the outcome of the day and said that more can now be done at both national and local community level.
Generation Rent’s policy and campaigns manager Seb Klier told the Star that the diversity of p eople attending the event illustrated “that the housing and renting issue isn’t just something for young professionals anymore.
“It’s people all over who are affected — families, older people, people in their middle age are really feeling the pinch because of really high prices and insecure conditions particularly in the private rented sector.”
Mr Klier added there were three areas that MPs and councillors really needed to work on improving.
“We think there’s absolutely a need for rent control,” he said.
“In terms of security we would like to see much longer mandatory tenancies, where renters are still able to give notice but the landlord can’t just kick you out whenever.”
Mr Klier also suggested the creation of a “national landlord register” so that “we actually know how many private landlords are out there, so we can actually start to make sure that we regulate them properly.”