Labour has pledged to plough £20m into setting up renters’ unions, with the aim of offering support to millions of private tenants across England.
The commitment, which will form part of Labour’s next blueprint for government, aims to build on similar organisations in Germany, where renters’ unions are commonplace.
It comes after the party announced it would also introduce a levy on tens of thousands of second homes and use the money to combat rising levels of homelessness.
The £20m fund made available by Labour will be staggered over a three-year period and help towards start-up costs, with organisations eligible to to bid for the cash to set up or grow independent renters’ unions.
It is hoped the new organisations will become self-funding through members’ subscription fees and provide advice, advocacy and representation on behalf of the 11.5 million people in the private rental market.
The move would ensure that renters have collective bodies to mirror organisations such as the National Landlords Association, which lobbies the government on behalf of its 30,000 private residential landlords.
“Tenants who rent from private landlords have been hit hard by the housing crisis,” said Labour’s shadow housing secretary Jon Healey.
He added: “Labour’s new commitment is clear: we’ll give renters new rights to control rental costs, improve conditions and increase security. Renters’ unions help put power in the hands of tenants.
“And the next Labour government will fund set-up costs for these unions across the country to support renters to defend their rights, and make the housing market fairer.”
In a recent paper, left-wing think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research recommended the creation of a nationwide renters’ union and said England could learn lesson from Germany in terms of tenancy security, controls on cost, and tenant representation.
“Greater protections for tenants will only come with greater political activism and collective voice,” the paper said. “A longer-term goal should be to start a tenants’ association nationally, with local branches, to mirror the German model.”
The commitment follows a previous pledge by Jeremy Corbyn to overhaul housing legislation by scrapping “no fault” eviction clauses which allow landlords to kick out tenants on whim and without reason.
He told The Independent in 2017 that dealing with housing was a “moral litmus test” for the country, adding: “Do we just put up with so many rough sleepers or do we do something about it?”
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