Housing Minister: ‘private sector rents have fallen’

The housing minister Mark Prisk says private sector rents have fallen in real terms, despite evidence to suggest they are soaring across the country – and increasing the housing benefit bill.

Mr Prisk – who took on the role of housing minister in September – made the remark earlier this month in a written parliamentary answer to Conservative MP Richard Fuller’s query on the impact of local housing allowance (LHA) caps.

Mr Prisk said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is funding research into the impact of the changes – brought in last year – but that rents had, in real terms, fallen.

He said: “The most recent official statistics published by the Valuation Office Agency in August 2012 show that median private sector rents across England rose by 0.9% in the year to June 2012, compared to a rise in RPI inflation of 2.8% over the same period. Rents have thus fallen in real terms, although there are local variations.”

According to the National Housing Federation (NHF) there has been an 86% increase in workers claiming housing benefit in the last three years as a result of private rents soaring across England.

The Federation’s Home Truth’s report – published last week – warns that rents have risen by 37% in the last five years and are set to soar a further 35% over the next six years.

A survey of buy-to-let landlords – used previously by the ex-housing minister Grant Shapps to show that rents were falling as a result of LHA caps – showed this month that rents have risen consecutively for half a year.

LSL Property Services warned that any sustained fall in rents will be “closely tied to a consistent and significant improvement in lending at higher loan-to-value-ratios to prospective first-time buyers.”