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Radical rental reforms – what did the Levelling Up White Paper reveal?

After months of speculation, the government’s Levelling Up White Paper – which includes a radical reshaping of the private rented sector – was released by Housing Secretary Michael Gove.

Seen as an appetiser to the more full-scale White Paper on rental reform, which is expected at some point in the spring, the White Paper nonetheless outlined plans for Section 21 eviction powers to be scrapped. Gove – whose brief also includes carrying out the government’s much-talked-about levelling up agenda – says this will “end the unfair situation where renters can be kicked out of their homes for no reason.”

The White Paper also states that all homes in the private rented sector will have to meet a minimum standard, to be known as the Decent Homes Standard. What’s more, it promised to consult on introducing a landlords register and set out plans for a crackdown on rogue operators. This will include making sure fines and bans ‘stop repeat offenders leaving renters in terrible conditions’.

As well as the PRS, there was also an emphasis on increasing home ownership, with the government saying this will be boosted by a new £1.5 billion Levelling Up Building Fund. This fund will provide loans to small and medium-sized developers as well as supporting the government's wider regeneration agenda in areas considered a priority for levelling up.

Additionally, the government has committed to build what it describes as ‘more genuinely affordable social housing’, and a new Social Housing Regulation Bill will be introduced following the Grenfell fire tragedy in 2017.

The wide-ranging document also revealed that the ‘80/20 rule’, which leads to 80% of government funding for housing supply being directed at ‘maximum affordability areas’, will be scrapped. Much of the £1.8 billion brownfield funding will instead be diverted to transforming brownfield sites in the North and Midlands, with metro mayors handed £120 million of this funding.

The Levelling Up White Paper included 12 so-called missions, covering everything from health and wellbeing to housing, jobs and transport. These missions, given legal status in a flagship Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, will ‘shift government focus and resources to Britain’s forgotten communities throughout the 2020s’, according to Gove.

The 12 missions are as follows:

1. By 2030, pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing;

2. By 2030, domestic public investment in R&D outside the Greater South East will increase by at least 40% and at least one third over the Spending Review period, with that additional government funding seeking to leverage at least twice as much private sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth;

3. By 2030, local public transport connectivity across the country will be significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing;

4. By 2030, the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population;

5. By 2030, the number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths will have significantly increased. In England, this will mean 90% of children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by over a third;

6. By 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas;

7. By 2030, the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by five years;

8. By 2030, well-being will have improved in every area of the UK, with the gap between top performing and other areas closing;

9. By 2030, pride in place, such as people's satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing;

10. By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50 per cent with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas;

11. By 2030, homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst-affected areas;

12 By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement.

“The United Kingdom is an unparalleled success story. We have one of the world’s biggest and most dynamic economies. Ours is the world’s most spoken language. We have produced more Nobel Prize winners than any country other than America,” Gove said of the radical plans.

“But not everyone shares equally in the UK’s success. For decades, too many communities have been overlooked and undervalued. As some areas have flourished, others have been left in a cycle of decline. The UK has been like a jet firing on only one engine.”

He said: “Levelling Up and this White Paper is about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery. This will not be an easy task, and it won’t happen overnight, but our 12 new national levelling up missions will drive real change in towns and cities across the UK, so that where you live will no longer determine how far you can go.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: “From day one, the defining mission of this government has been to level up this country, to break the link between geography and destiny so that no matter where you live you have access to the same opportunities.”

He continued: “The challenges we face have been embedded over generations and cannot be dug out overnight, but this White Paper is the
next crucial step.”

He argued that the Levelling Up White Paper is the most comprehensive, ambitious plan of its kind ‘that this country has ever seen’ and ‘will ensure that the government continues to rise to the challenge and deliver for the people of the UK’.

What will this mean for landlords?

Although the White Paper on Rental Reform is expected to firm up some of the pledges made by the government in the Levelling Up White Paper, it is now clear the direction of travel with regards to Section 21.

There had been some speculation that the scrapping of Section 21 could be watered down or scaled back on, but the government has now reiterated its commitment to changing the way evictions occur. On a positive note, for landlords, Section 21 has been something of a blunt instrument for two years now – because of the effective eviction bans in place during the pandemic, and the court backlogs that have followed – so there has been the chance to get used to a world where such eviction powers don’t exist.

There will, though, be understandable concern among landlords about losing their rights as the balance of power seems to shift towards tenants.

There will also be rising pressure on landlords to make sure their homes meet the highest standards, although in the vast majority of cases this is something that landlords already adhere to.

Any plans to bring in a mandatory landlord register, as is the case in Scotland, are likely to be met with fierce opposition, but the plans to clamp down on rogue landlords will no doubt be well-received to improve the reputation of the sector.

The Levelling Up White Paper has brought radical rental reform much closer, but we must wait on the rental reform version to see just
what the plans are.

Here at Holland Properties, we have been an established estate and letting agent since 1999 and can help to manage your tenancies, allowing you to get the most from your rental properties as a result. We operate in Docklands and the surrounding areas including Surrey Quays and Rotherhithe.

For further guidance on any part of the lettings process, please contact us today. You can also request a free and instant online valuation to see how much rent you could be charging in the current marketplace.

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