In a bold move by the notoriously progressive Islington Council in north London, the Labour leadership announced a two-pronged approach to the borough’s increasingly pricey housing market. Private landlords who own property along Caledonian and Holloway Roads will now have to be licensed with the Council or face a fine of £20,000. Secondly, the Council agreed to start up its own public-led lettings agency.
The first policy regarding licensing of landlords is an attempt to regulate what are two highly populated roads covering over 3,500 tenants. Registering with the Council allows the body to manage and monitor “rogue landlords”, which has become a significant issue in the housing sector. Licensing would come with a certain minimum standard of housing and treatment of tenants with rights and responsibilities for both parties.
The creation of an Islington Council-led lettings agency that will be able to control rents in the borough is a first of its kind in the UK. Cllr James Murray, Executive Member for Housing, stated “it means that people who can afford to pay rent, but not in Islington, will be able to live here.” The purpose of the system is to protect tenants from extraneous charges which often come with finding a place to live including charges for inventory, references and credit checks. Landlords would directly register with the Council instead of with a private lettings agency.
A similar proposal has been piloted in Hackney, another Labour council.
With two staunchly progressive Labour councils proposing what is effectively a public sector monitoring system of the private housing market, what does this mean for private developers seeking planning permission in localities with similar political compositions?
This trend for increased regulation of the housing market by local government comes in tandem with increasing demands for higher S106 agreement arrangements and increased pressure on developers to deliver higher levels of affordable housing in their schemes. At Local Dialogue, we expect this trend to continue as the housing market continues to squeeze the most vulnerable in communities. As the 2015 General Election approaches, we expect Labour councils to be more visible in their positioning as the party that tackles the “cost of living crisis” in the housing market.