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21 May 24

Just days after suggesting rent controls of any kind were off the table, it now appears Labour may be considering them after all.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has told BBC local radio that there might be a case for controlling rents in certain local areas, though she emphasised there would not be a “blanket approach”. 

She says local authorities could prevent landlords from raising rents above a set amount each year.

A similar policy introduced in Scotland by Nicola Sturgeon led to landlords quitting the market, disinvestment in Build To Rent, a reduced rental housing supply and increased rents.

Reeves told BBC Radio Essex: “I think that should be up to local areas to decide. There may be the case for that in some local areas, but as a blanket approach, I’m not convinced by that.”

This latest flip flop on the subject by Labour appears to contradict its rejection of the policy in the recent past – although that was itself a reversal of statements made about two years ago when the party nationally appeared more sympathetic to controls.

Several Labour mayors – notably Sadiq Khan in London, Steve Rotheram in Liverpool and Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester – have suggested that they would be in favour of rent controls.

Reeves’ intervention came just days after the party distanced itself from a call for rent controls in a report commissioned in January 2023 by then-shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy. She was shortly afterwards removed by party leader Sir Kier Starmer but the writing of the report went ahead under the Labour leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, Stephen Cowan.

He took 15 months to complete the report but when it was launched last week there was no front bencher speaking in its favour – because it supported selective rent controls, which at that time appeared to contradict national party policy.

Just to add to the confusion, after Reeve’s told the BBC that Labour could allow some rent controls, a national party spokesperson issued a statement correcting her.

It said:”As Rachel Reeves said, she does not believe rent controls are the right approach.

“While Labour believes action needs to be taken to address extortionate within tenancy rent rises, rent controls are not national Labour Party policy as we remain mindful of the risk they could pose to the availability of rental properties and the harmful impacts any reduction in supply would have on renters.

“In government, Labour would act where the Conservatives have failed to ensure fairness and security for renters, immediately abolishing Section 21, ending tenant bidding wars and extending Awaab’s law to the private rented sector.”

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