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City mayors from across the UK are now calling for a rent freeze

An open letter addressed to Michael Gove urged the government to act now to help tenants during the cost-of-living crisis

The mayors of London, Manchester, and Liverpool have called for an immediate rent freeze and a ban on evictions in England to help renters deal with the cost of living crisis.

This would bring the country in line with Scotland, where tenants have been protected by emergency measures introduced by Nicola Sturgeon since September 2022. 

“Rising costs of food and energy mean millions are struggling to make ends meet,” the campaigners wrote in an open letter to Michael Gove, published today, saying renters were “among the worst affected” by the cost of living crisis.

“A rent freeze would immediately relieve pressure on millions of people and halt an eviction crisis that would have a devastating social impact, and cost local councils and the government millions,” they added.

Signatories to the letter, which was coordinated by the London Renters Union (LRU), included Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, Steve Rotheram, the mayor of Liverpool, and London mayor Sadiq Khan. They were also joined by Mick Lynch, the co-leaders of the Green Party, and other union representatives.

LRU launched a campaign calling for a rent freeze in December, and now public and political support for the campaign is mounting. Speaking to Dazed at the time, one LRU member said: “Millions of us have been hit with unfair and unjustifiable rent rises as high as 50 per cent. Renters cannot afford these increases and many are facing the prospect of homelessness [...] while rich landlords and letting agents like Foxtons see profits boom.”

The open letter explicitly condemned landlords who exploit their tenants for profit. “Landlords, with the encouragement of letting agents, are using this crisis as an opportunity to introduce rent hikes. In September 2022 alone, one million renters faced a rent increase,” they wrote. “Some landlords will be struggling with increased mortgage costs, but many will not.” It’s true: research from Generation Rent shows that just 11 per cent of rent increases in 2022 were the result of higher mortgage rates.

The letter also highlighted findings which show that private renters across the UK spent four or five times more on housing than owner-occupiers between April 2020 and March 2021.

Additional research released by the homelessness charity Shelter in September 2022 suggested more than 1 million private renters in England, or roughly one in seven, had seen their rents increase in the last month. The report also indicated that almost 2.5 million renters are either behind or constantly struggling to pay rent, a figure which has increased by 45 per cent since April 2022.

“Rents have been skyrocketing across the UK, rising fastest in Manchester, Bristol, Sheffield and Birmingham, reaching as high as 20.5 per cent. Rents in London have gone up 17.8 per cent on average last year, and rent increases of 30 to 50 per cent are increasingly common,” the campaigners wrote in the letter.

“The Government must now act to protect renters,” they stated, listing three key demands: introducing an immediate freeze on rents; implementing an immediate eviction ban until the end of the cost of living crisis; and delivering on the commitment to end section 21 by fast-tracking the Renters Reform Bill. 

Liam Miller, a spokesperson for LRU, said that “falling wages and rising rents” are impacting millions.” The government has the power to protect people from unaffordable rent rises, but it is choosing instead to preside over a wild west rental market that is punishing the people who kept the country going through the pandemic,” he said. “A rent freeze now is the only way to address the scale and urgency of the crisis, and would represent a step towards a stronger housing system that meets everyones needs.”

LRU has also created a tool for people to write to their MPs in support of the public call.

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