Our housing correspondent, BARRATT HOLMES, has unearthed more evidence of the local MP’s somewhat cavalier approach to the truth
How times change, eh, Gav?
Almost exactly a year ago, but importantly before he was housing minister, Croydon Central’s Tory MP Gavin Barwell – a long-time governor for the Whitgift Foundation, the biggest landlords in the borough – was keen to emphasise the then Conservative Party line which opposed any form of rent controls or regulation of landlords and the private rented market.
Then, in February 2016, in an email sent to a constituent, Barwell claimed: “Evidence from Britain and around the world conclusively demonstrates that rent controls lead to fewer homes being rented and ultimately higher rents.
“Here in the UK, rent controls decimated the private rented sector,” Barwell said, misusing the word “decimate” (and him being public school-educated, too).
He went to quote a statistic which conveniently overlooked the role in post-1945 Britain of a successful local authorities building programme which provided hundreds of thousands of publicly owned council houses for ordinary working families at what were truly affordable rents (when the word “affordable” was used properly).
Such public sector intervention worked well, but was clearly unpopular with private landlords, such as Barwell’s mates in multi-million-pound independent school and property business at the Whitgift Foundation.
And then today, in his latest role as the Tory housing minister, Barwell has been party to an announcement of a housing White Paper which will introduce banning orders “to remove the worst landlords or agents from operating”.
That is surely an admission by a Tory government that the private rental sector does indeed need some degree of policing, just as Croydon’s Labour-run council is endeavouring to do with its licensing scheme which was so derided by Barwell and his Conservative chums when introduced.
John Healey, Labour’s shadow spokesman on housing, greeted today’s announcement by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, Barwell’s boss, as “more of a white flag than a White Paper”.
“We hoped for better and we needed better,” Healey said. “This disappointment will desperately disappoint millions of people struggling to cope with a housing crisis. It was feeble beyond belief.”
Barwell’s government today admitted that it will miss its self-imposed target of building 1million homes by 2020.
That, as Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader is well aware, is nothing new.
In his email sent to a constituent exactly a year ago, Barwell actually wrote: “Statistics show that rents have fallen in real terms every year since 2010.”
He didn’t define his terms. Did using national figures suit his agenda then? Or was he really suggesting that rents in London had fallen? Nor did he cite his source for these “statistics”. Or were they “alternative facts”?
According to Home.co.uk, the average amount paid in rent in Croydon for a three-bedroomed home is now £14,400 per year.
Take a look at how Barwell was fobbing off his constituents on housing policy just a year ago:
From: BARWELL, Gavin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: 05 February 2015 16:36
Subject: RE: A London rent cap
Thank you for contacting me about rent controls in London.
While I recognise that rent controls may sound attractive, the Government has no plans to re-introduce them. Evidence from Britain and around the world conclusively demonstrates that rent controls lead to fewer homes being rented and ultimately higher rents.
Here in the UK, rent controls decimated the private rented sector. Between the introduction of the 1939 Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act and the abolition of rent controls at the end of the 1980s, the private rented sector fell from 55 per cent of households to just 8 per cent. Rental controls were a significant factor behind this fall, as they meant that many landlords could not afford to improve or maintain their homes, leading to worse conditions for tenants.
Instead of introducing excessive regulations, the Government is working hard to improve the sector by increasing the numbers of new homes, so that demand no longer exceeds supply. There are now 700,000 more homes in England than in 2009, house building is up 16 per cent compared to last year and new homes are being built specifically for private rent through the £1billion Build to Rent fund, with contracts in place across London. A new How to Rent guide has been published so tenants know their rights and the Model Tenancy Agreement is making it easier for people to ask for longer tenancies if they choose to.
Statistics show that rents have fallen in real terms every year since 2010. I therefore believe the interests of tenants are best served by measures which encourage choice and competition, rather than excessive regulation, such as rent controls, which would have the opposite effect.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
MP for Croydon Central
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