Labour should not have sought to control rents by regulating landlords, the party’s new shadow chancellor has said.
Chris Leslie, who is a landlord himself, said the party’s policy of limiting the speed of rent increases for tenants had upset people seeking to profit from housing by implying that fast rises were exploitative.
“Part of the issue we always face on the centre-left is the temptation to want to control and run what’s going on in a particular market,” he told the Guardian newspaper.
“It was reasonable to talk to people who were renting and say, ‘we understand your anxieties.’ But actually the solution is supply of housing, and not necessarily implying that landlords are all exploitative and opportunistic.”
He told the newspaper he believed the market could be fixed simply by improving consumer information, increasing transparency, and rolling out a “Help to Build” scheme to encourage developers to build more.
“I personally feel that it’s got to be about consumer information, about blasting some transparency through these markets,” he argued.
The newspaper reports that Mr Leslie believes a new housebuilding scheme should be rolled out instead of rent caps.
Parliament’s latest register of interests, published on 30 March this year, says Mr Leslie’s MPs’ salary and expenses are topped up by rent payments from tenants on a property in London.
Landlords are not a significant group of voters and make up around 3 per cent of the population, according to the latest figures available.
The number of people who rent from landlords, by contrast, make up 15 per cent of the population.
There is overwhelming support for rent controls across the political spectrum, according to polling conducted earlier this year.
A survey by YouGov found that only 8.6 per cent of people were against mandatory rent controls while 59 per cent supported them.
Labour went into the last election pledging to slow rent rises. It would have legislated to ensure that landlords could only raise rent by inflation for the duration of a contract. Contracts would also be mandated at three years as standard.
The party shied away from full-blooded rent controls and caps on rents – or a return to the system of local authority rent officers that operated across the UK until 1986.
Mr Leslie replaces Ed Balls, Labour’s former shadow chancellor, who lost his seat at the general election.
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