Why we must base policy on evidence-based research

In an era of fake news, the need for evidence based policy approaches towards private renting has never been greater.

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Around a fifth of all households in England are now in the private rented sector with growing numbers of families with children in particular looking to it for a place to call home.

With the demands this places on the sector to provide more security as well as decent standards and affordable rents, the sector is now under closer scrutiny than ever before.

This is indeed how it should be and with around two million landlords there are certainly a minority who do not live up to their responsibilities towards their tenants and in a small number of cases, set out to exploit them.

This makes it important that as the Government considers policy changes to respond to the changing demands being placed on the sector, we need to ensure analysis of private renting is rooted in sound evidence.

That is why the RLA established PEARL last year, to provide high-quality research and analysis on the economic, social, and political issues facing the private rented sector in a way that seeks to remove some of the ideological baggage that too often skews findings.

Through it the RLA has been able to dispel some of the myths surrounding private rented housing.

By analysing Government data we have been able to show that tenants are living an average of four years in their homes, that 90% of tenancies end because the tenant brings them to a close, and just 1.2% of private tenants who have moved home in the last three years said it was because they could not afford the rent.

In conducting robust and reliable surveys of our members an landlords more widely we have been able to highlight the difficulties being caused for tenants and landlords from Universal Credit, the result of which led to considerable changes to the way the Credit operates being made in last November’s Budget.

We have also shown the difficulties caused by the Right to Rent policy and the damage being done to the supply of homes to rent as a result of recent tax reforms on the sector.

Perhaps PEARL’s most high profile research has been studying trends in the growth of Airbnb in London.

PEARL’s research has shown that Government policy is driving many property owners to choose to rent properties on the short-term holiday market, rather than providing homes longer term which are desperately needed in the Capital.

This led to pressure on Airbnb to tighten its own policing of rules designed to ensure properties cannot be short-let in London for more than 90 nights in any given year.

Since this, the RLA has seen a dip in the growth of multiple properties being listed on Airbnb by single owners, a bellwether for landlords converting to short-term lets.

There are clearly many challenges the sector needs to face up to which the RLA is engaging on constructively.

We need policy that works for tenants and landlords, underpinned by a sound evidence base. That is what the RLA will continue to push for.

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