Portsmouth City Council has announced it is taking a bold step in order to tackle the housing crisis that Portsmouth and many similar cities across the country are facing.
As one of the most densely populated cities in the country, it's no secret that a lack of available land and affordable properties has increased the pressure on housing in Portsmouth. Alongside building more homes Portsmouth people can afford, making renting privately easier and safer is also essential in order to tackle the housing crisis the city faces in the coming years.
In order to achieve this, the Council will examine the many complex reasons that stop people renting privately and provide a range of options to overcome them.
Selective licensing, which covers all privately rented properties and is used in several local councils, is one way that has been suggested. However June's Government review on the topic recommended that - even if it were right for Portsmouth - it would need other community-based measures alongside it to be effective. (An Independent Review of the Use and Effectiveness of Selective Licensing: MHCLG, June 2019, p.8).
Portsmouth is taking an unusual and bold route, by moving beyond the doors of the council chamber and opening up the discussion to all councillors across the city.
The Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Darren Sanders has asked councillors from all political parties and none to email their thoughts on private renting, allowing those prohibited from discussing it in Council meetings to take part in this crucial discussion. This unusual approach has been cleared by Council lawyers and will allow for a wider input from multi-party representatives across the city.
Once the comments have been reviewed and it has been agreed to take forward options for further consultation, the wider public will then be involved. That is likely to happen late next month.
This builds on work the Council is doing to make private renting easier and safer, such as expanding a rent deposit scheme, exploring guarantees for people who wish to rent privately and its new access scheme to help lease properties and reduce the use of temporary accommodation.
Portsmouth City Council's Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Darren Sanders said:
"Too many people on the Council's housing waiting list say they don't want to rent privately. Making it easier and safer for them to do so is essential if we are to give people the confidence to leave the register and move into a home. That means thinking differently and involving people in decisions. We have to look at the current housing market and the situations that renters find themselves in, review the feedback and then find new and original solutions to tackle those problems head on."
"Some of the potential ideas currently do not cover long-term rent arrears or poor property conditions. That's unacceptable. Getting the views of the city's elected representatives - especially those prohibited from debating this - first is a start. Once we have those we can then involve the wider public. It enables the Council to progress quickly, rather than wait and wait. We need to take action, be bold and think differently if we're going to create positive change."