David Cameron has firmly rejected rent controls, saying that imposing what private landlords could charge tenants could wreck the sector. Instead, he has said that the private rented sector needs more competition.
Answering a question from Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, who represents Islington, at Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday, the exchange went as follows:
Jeremy Corbyn MP: Is the Prime Minister aware of the trauma facing thousands of families, particularly in London, who live in private rented accommodation, where the housing benefit payments do not meet the rapidly increasing rents?
These people are then forced out of their homes and out of their boroughs, and the community suffers as a result, as does the children’s education. Does he not think it is time to regulate private sector rents and bring in a fair rents policy in this country, so that families are not forced out of the communities where they and their families have lived for a very long time?
The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman must recognise that we inherited a housing benefit system in London that was completely out of control; some families were getting as much as £104,000 a year – that is for one family for one year. Even today we are still spending about £6bn on housing benefit in London.
We have to recognise that higher levels of housing benefit and higher rents were chasing each other upwards in a spiral.
I do not support the idea of mass rent controls because I think we would see a massive decline in the private rented sector, which is what happened the last time we had such rent controls.
We need proper regulation of housing benefit, and we need to make sure that we have a competitive system for private sector renting and that we build more flats and houses.