THE BLOG

Politics Is Dominated By The Voices Of Homeowners - Time For Renters To Make Their Voices Heard Too

15/05/2017 17:27
JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images

Moving house is stressful. First you have to find somewhere close enough to work, but cheap enough to afford, and then leap in with an offer before anyone else does. Then you hand over a stomach-churning sum of money on fees, rent and the deposit. Then you have to move all your stuff, which seems to have doubled in size since you last moved. Then you have to ask your old landlord for your deposit back. Then you have to change your address with your bank, get new broadband installed, navigate the utility process.

No one makes the decision to move home lightly. You might not even make that decision if your landlord makes it for you.

The last thing on your mind is securing your right to vote. That means when a snap election is called - like the one on 8 June - anyone who has moved recently has a tiny window of time in which to register.

It's worth the effort though. If you worry about how much you'll have left after waving goodbye to your rent money every month, or anxious about how long you'll be allowed to stay in your new home, then this election gives you an opportunity to demand a better deal.

Whether it's building more houses, controlling rents or protecting tenants from unfair evictions, the next government will have that power. Who gets to form it is up to us.

You might not have decided who gets your vote yet, and at the time of writing we haven't had any official manifestos yet, but it won't matter if you're not registered by 22 May.

This is a problem for anyone who wants to fix the housing crisis. Nearly two million renters who are eligible to vote have moved house since the EU referendum. Thanks to tenancies lasting a maximum of 12 months, we are 6 times more likely to move in a given year than home owners. That means renters are at a high risk of finding themselves without a say on polling day.

Without the voices of renters at the ballot box, politics becomes dominated by the voices of home owners and that means less pressure to change the status quo that makes home ownership so much more attractive than renting. Sure, many home owners are concerned about their friends, colleagues and kids who rent but we can't rely on them to fight our corner at the election.

If politicians view renters as apathetic or content they'll ignore us. As high house prices cause our numbers to swell, renters will hold the balance of power in more and more seats. Politicians should be out there competing for our votes.

The good news is that registering to vote is easy. It takes only five minutes on the government's website. If you get to the bit about National Insurance number and start panicking about which box has your card in, don't worry. You won't need your NI number but your council will probably request a copy of your ID - if you've just started a new tenancy you will hopefully have that a bit closer to hand.

Register by midnight next Monday and you'll get confirmation from the council before polling day. If, like many renters, you haven't voted before, remember that as long as you're registered and know where your polling station is you can show up - no need for ID or your polling card.

If you're dreading the next time you move house, make sure you can make your voice heard on 8 June.

Generation Rent and ACORN are running rentersvote.org.uk until polling day, to organise voter registration and scrutinise party manifestos on housing

Comments

CONVERSATIONS