The Battle for Generation Rent: Political parties at war over housing

They are the generation who have been denied a foot on the property ladder.

They are the generation who have been denied a foot on the property ladder: young people priced out of buying their own home by a demand that far outstrips supply.

They are 'Generation Rent': stuck in rental accommodation - at the mercy of private landlords and letting agents, scrambling for the few affordable homes on sale in the city.

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But they may have more power than they imagine. It looks as if they could decide the outcome of next May's elections in Brighton and Hove.

Nearly one in three homes (32%) are privately rented in the city. As the main parties begin to jostle for vital votes, Generation Rent seems likely to find itself at the centre of the battle for their votes.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, has unveiled plans for a housing charter for Brighton and Hove, calling for better-quality and secure housing in the private rented sector and more affordable housing across the city.

In her bullet-point plan, Ms Lucas wants to end letting-agent fees, to lift the cap on council borrowing to allow the city council to invest in a substantial programme of sustainable council housing, and to introduce five-year tenancies as standard as a first step towards giving tenants and landlords long-term security.

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Ms Lucas is not alone in targeting Generation Rent. Purna Sen, her Labour rival for Brighton Pavilion, has launched a consultation looking into a range of issues surrounding housing and has backed her party's three-point plan to woo floating voters.

Like Ms Lucas, she wants to see a ban in upfront fees charged by letting agents and favours more long-term tenancy deals, calling for a three-year standard for the private sector.

Labour has also pledged to put a stop to landlords terminating contracts purely to put rents up.

It is easy to see why the city's politicians focus on housing.

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Andy Winter, of Brighton Housing Trust, wrote to local candidates of the main political parties asking for their take on the city's rental problems, receiving responses from all but two: Peter Kyle, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Hove, and Nancy Platts, Labour's candidate in Brighton Kemptown.

Mr Winter said: 'Nationally, there are 87 constituencies where the voting intentions of Generation Rent will influence the outcome.

'Locally, we have marginal seats. And, given that Brighton has a higher than average number of people who are living in privately-rented homes, the seats are likely to be high up on that 87.'

In response to Mr Winter's request, Clarence Mitchell, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavilion, said the central problem was the lack of supply of new housing.

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He added: 'Our political opponents claim the re-introduction of a limited form of rent control would solve the problems. We believe it wouldn't. Rent controls have failed in the past by actually reducing the UK's private rented housing stock and they would again.

'Such controls, in fact, resulted in the private rented sector shrinking from 55% of households in 1939 to just 8% in the late 1980s. Rent controls also meant that many landlords couldn't afford to improve or maintain their homes.'

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