Keynote chapter – the North’s Private Rented Sector

New report reveals the need for urgent reform across private rented home sector. 

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are facing calls to accelerate reforms to protect tenants following a new report that reveals residents of private rented homes across the North of England face low standards, rising rents and a chronic lack of stability.

The Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) publishes the Northern Housing Monitor 2022 report to provide an up-to-date picture of housing standards across the north. It shows that for the 1.2 million (or 17.4%) northern private renter households almost a third (30%) of properties were of a ‘non-decent’ standard, with improvement over the last ten years solely due to an above England average 47% improvement in the North West housing stock.

Housing quality in both the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber has worsened over the decade, with volumes of non-decent accommodation increasing by 3.6% and 1.3%, respectively, up to 2020.

A total of 4.4 million households makes up England’s private rented sector, including 1.3 million households with children and 382,000 households over 65. The policy paper ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in June concluded that “this is driving unacceptable outcomes and holding back some of the most deprived parts of the country.”

DLUHC has identified that over half (54%) of households spend more than 30% of their income on housing, including renter groups categorised as ‘families getting by’ and ‘low-income savers’.

Nationally, nine of the top ten neighbourhoods (and 43 of the top 100) with the highest concentrations of private renting in England in 2011 were in northern cities, indicating that northern renting tends to be more concentrated than in other parts of England.

The NHC report identifies that renters in Yorkshire and the Humber live in the lowest quality housing of any region in England, with Yorkshire relying more on the private rented sector than any region outside London.

Yorkshire’s private rented sector has the lowest standards in England, with rates of non-decency (37.6%) well above the English average of 22.8% and those in other Northern regions – the North East (28.2%) and the North West (23.9%).

The NHC is calling on the incoming Prime Minister to ensure that the Government delivers the Renters Reform Agenda and its Levelling Up Mission on housing quality. The Levelling Up White Paper published in February set out a ‘mission’ to halve the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030, a target confirmed in June’s Fairer Private Rented Sector White Paper.

The NHC represents 140 councils and housing associations across the North; its chief executive, Tracy Harrison, said:

“The Yorkshire and Humber region has the lowest standards of private rented accommodation of any region. It’s clear that for significant parts of the North the standards are already poor and getting worse.

“It is imperative that the new Prime Minister accelerates the Renters Reform Agenda and doesn’t let the standard of private rented housing in the North slide. Otherwise, the Government will fall way short of hitting its target of halving the number of non-decent rented homes by 2030. The need to level-up housing quality is vital, particularly across the North, where homes are older, suffer from a lack of investment, and the sector is crying out for support and proper regulation.

“While most people have a positive experience living in the private rented sector, the fact is that many residents are often vulnerable, with specific health and social care needs. The quality of the housing in the lower end of the sector is simply not up to standard and can exacerbate physical and mental health conditions to limit life chances further.

“The Government must deliver on the promises that have been made to Northern renters, and momentum must be maintained. Councils, landlords and renters all want to see a plan to boost quality in the North’s private rented sector.”

The private rented housing sector grew 36% between 2010 and 2020 and now houses 17% of Northerners. Given the expansion in the North of England, it is evident that the new stock that has come into the market has often been non-decent.

In addition to calling on the Government to push on with its plans to boost housing quality as part of the levelling-up agenda, with 54% of those in the private rented sector at high risk of fuel poverty, the NHC has outlined the need to increase the pace of energy efficiency upgrades to homes urgently.

The ongoing cost of living crisis will increase bills for those living in poorly insulated, energy inefficient rented properties. The latest predictions estimate the energy price cap will increase by 77% on October 1 to £3,500, and in January next year, it will rise even further.

The private rented sector keynote chapter is a taster of 2022’s comprehensive state-of-the region Northern Housing Monitor: the analysis you need, in one place. The full 2022 Monitor will be published in the Autumn – in the meantime, you can find 2021’s Monitor here.  The NHC is grateful to Gentoo and Yorkshire Housing for their support for 2022’s Northern Housing Monitor.  The Monitor is commissioned from Arc4 by the NHC.