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Let local councils freeze rents in cost of living crisis, says Labour

Shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy says she is ‘very interested’ in giving councils power to freeze private rents

Ruby Lott-Lavigna
27 September 2022, 4.43pm

Lisa Nandy

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Gary Roberts photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Labour would look into giving local mayors and councils the power to freeze private rents in their areas, shadow levelling up and housing secretary Lisa Nandy has said.

Speaking at a fringe event at Labour’s annual conference on Tuesday, Nandy said she was “very interested” in allowing mayors or local councils to freeze rents during times of hardship, such as the current cost of living crisis.

“I'm personally very interested and attracted by the idea that local mayors and council leaders should be able to make decisions to freeze rent increases in their local areas over the winter,” said Nandy.

“I think doing nothing is not an option,” she added. “We're working on proposals, as we speak, to make sure that we've got hope on offer for people in the private rented sector, who are facing those big rent increases this winter.”

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Rents in the UK are rising at their highest rate since records began, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Since January 2015, rental prices across the UK have risen overall by 14.3%.

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a rent freeze and an eviction ban for private renters in Scotland earlier this month, but so far there has been no help announced for renters in England and Wales.

While Labour has made no commitments on rent freezes – local or otherwise – it is understood the scale of the problem is a focus for the party.

I think doing nothing is not an option. We're working on proposals to make sure we've got hope on offer for private renters

Lisa Nandy

On Tuesday Nandy announced a collection of policies aimed at improving the rights of tenants that Labour would implement if elected, including the introduction of a landlord register, a four-month notice period, letting tenants have pets, and making reasonable changes to a rental property.

Housing organisations said rent freezes were essential while the country faces a cost of living crisis, but that Nandy’s proposal doesn’t go far enough.

“As part of this cost of living crisis, freezing rents is critical,” Alicia Kennedy, director of campaign group Generation Rent told openDemocracy. “We need a pause on Section 21 (no-fault) evictions and stopping automatic evictions for rent arrears.”

“These ideas are welcome – it is right that local and regional authorities have power over this type of regulation, but it has to also be set by the national government,” she added. “It’s not good enough to say they have the powers, a government has to insist they use the powers.”

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