These were the words of Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North when he proposed his bill to Parliament for regulation of the private rented sector.
On Tuesday, a small groups of us, Lauri from Islington, Heather and Nell from Hackney and Pauline from Tower Hamlets, all private tenants, went along to sit in the gallery of the House of Commons, crossing our fingers in hope that the draft bill would pass the first round.
After a lively round of health questions fielded by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, we began to notice a mass exodus from the House as MPs including Dianne Abbott and Andy Burham gathered up their papers and vanished.
As we gazed down at the now almost deserted House, it left us wondering whether parliamentarians were really taking seriously the housing crisis facing the nation.
As Jeremy Corbyn began to speak about the problems facing many of his constituent who rent privately, it became clear that many of the remaining MPs were not really listening. A timer ran while he spoke for his allotted ten minutes. A transcript of Jeremy’s full speech is here.
We were delighted that he quoted Digs directly and made reference to the growing private tenants’ action for change in London. We were even more delighted that no one opposed the bill, in fact, Lauri got a very stern look from a guard for bouncing in her seat like a little kid when the speaker proclaimed, “The Ayes have it”.
The bill is being supported by a group of MPs including David Lammy and Caroline Lucas. It is tabled to be re revisited on 26 April.
After being swiftly ushered out the gallery, we managed to swing an invite from Jeremy to ‘the Pugin Room’, which has a beautiful view overlooking the Thames.
Slightly overwhelmed by our surroundings, we spoke with Jeremy about the next stages for taking our campaign forward.
We’re well aware that this is only Round One, and plenty of people are going to be against regulation of a market which, up till now, has generated nothing but sky’s-the-limit profit for anyone willing to exploit the opportunity. See this quietly sarcastic post by a site run for lettings agents. Could they be running scared?
If one thing is for sure, then it’s the need to rally more private tenants to come out in support of this bill. Private renters now make up a third of London’s population and still our voice is being ignored.
Are you a tenant in the private rented sector? If so, you have a vested interest in joining the campaign. Your future will be greatly affected by the outcome of events from here on in. So here’s what we need to do next:
Establish our collective voice and maintain our presence in the debate.
1. Write to your MP. Call them. Let them know you vote, and that you want to see the PRS regulated. If the conditions you live in are untenable, let them know! Tell them you will be keeping track of their activities in regards to tenants’ rights, and if they don’t support regulation of the PRS, you will vote them out of office.
2. Tip off the press that tenants’ rights are a timely current issue that isn’t going away. Tweet your tips — most media people are on Twitter.
3. Write to us with your stories of renting. If you fear retaliation, do so anonymously.
4. Come to our meetings or other activities, and learn how to empower yourself.
5. Join a tenant’s organization in your own borough. If your borough hasn’t got one, then we can help you with advice on how to set up your own!
Questions? Comments? Let us know.
Now Social Housing Watch are holding an online debate into whether the private rented sector should be regulated with Heather with Digs, David Cox from the National Landlords Association and Alison Gelder from Housing Justice. Click here to follow what’s being said.