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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 July 2018

Tories pledge three-year private tenancies: fight for rent caps and council homes

Housing demo, London, 13.3.16, photo James Ivens

Housing demo, London, 13.3.16, photo James Ivens   (Click to enlarge)

Keishia Taylor, private rental tenant, North London Socialist Party

Under pressure, the Tories have promised to introduce three-year minimum tenancies. But we need real security, rent caps and a mass building programme of council housing.

Just last year, then housing minister Gavin Barwell denounced the idea. But with the Tories on the brink of collapse over Brexit and a possible election approaching, they are trying to appease victims of the housing crisis.

But this will not deflect our anger at unprecedented homelessness, rocketing rents, social cleansing projects and over-inflated house prices.

80% of the 4.5 million households in the private rented sector have six or 12-month contracts, so this legislation could benefit a huge number of people. But the private rented sector is still littered with poor-quality and even dangerous homes - if you can afford the exorbitant rents to begin with!

In 12 years of renting, I've had 16 different addresses and been evicted twice by greedy landlords. The upheaval, possibility of eviction and finding somewhere affordable at short notice is a constant worry. Loss of a private rented tenancy is the most common reason for becoming homeless, according to Shelter.

Three-year minimum tenancies would be welcome, but this must include real protection from eviction and the option to leave earlier - without being penalised. The private sector should return to full security of tenure, abolished under Thatcher - as should social and council housing.

Rent

And we need rent control: democratically decided rent caps, not just restrictions on rent increases as Labour has proposed. And landlords must be forced to provide the highest standards of safety and quality, good treatment of tenants and returning deposits.

This must be accompanied by building the millions of council homes needed to replace sold-off council houses and loosen the death grip of private landlords.

Landlords have complained about the new proposals hurting their income. The big landlords have had enough off us already.

But many are small landlords who own a rental property to subsidise their meagre pensions, for example. Guaranteeing a living state pension for all is also essential.

We need to organise to kick out the Tories, and push Corbyn to adopt more of the radical measures like those above that have slipped away under the pressure of the Blairites.

Housing cannot be left in the hands of billionaire developers, big landlords and their Tory friends. We need democratic tenants' control over housing that is safe, secure, affordable and good quality.

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