Where are the policies for renters? First Past the Post keeps the focus on homeowners

Thea Ridley-Castle, Research and Policy Officer

Posted on the 28th July 2023

With the current cost-of-living crisis and soaring interest rates, mortgages and mortgage holders are all anybody can talk about, including our political parties. The Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems are talking people’s ears off about their strategies to help mortgage holders with their increased costs. But it seems as though there’s collective amnesia when it comes to renters, as John Elledge put it “if you don’t own a property, you don’t quite count”!

So why are renters and soaring rents, which on average amount to 30.9% of monthly income for private renters, getting ignored? Could it be to do with our electoral system?

Using the 2021 census data (2011 for Scotland), we looked at property tenure in the 30 most safe seats and the 26 seats which were won by majorities of <2%. In the 30 most safe seats, there are 13 constituencies where there are more renters (both private and social) than owners (both with mortgage and own outright), this equates to only 983 more renters than owners across the 30 seats. Almost half of these constituencies (6) are in London where homeownership is the lowest across all regions in England and Wales (46.8 per cent).

In contrast, in the seats with the smallest majorities there are 325,000 more property owners than renters. It makes sense then that parties are touting policies such as lengthening mortgage periods (Labour), bringing in funds for grants if your mortgage has increase by more than 10% (Liberal Democrats) and offering people on fixed-term rate the opportunity to lock in new deals up to six months ahead (Conservatives). They need to appeal to current mortgage holders and ensure owners that current house prices will not decrease, in order to win voter support in key marginal areas.

The is only 1 constituency in the 26 smallest majorities where renting tenure is larger than owning, Kensington, coincidentally the only central London constituency in the list of 26.

Constituency Homeowners
(inc. owning outright and owning with mortgage)
(inc. socially and privately)
Number more owners than renters Number more renters than owners
Alyn and Deeside 26,231 9,983 16,248
Bedford 25,222 19,953 5,269
Blyth Valley 25,076 13,891 11,185
Bolton North East 24,375 17,275 7,100
Bury North 25,875 12,344 13,531
Bury South 28,409 14,067 14,342
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross 18,297 8,946 9,351
Carshalton and Wallington 26,232 14,289 11,943
Cheltenham 30,066 17,726 12,340
Coventry North West 28,319 15,980 12,339
Coventry South 23,751 18,350 5,401
Dagenham and Rainham 23,775 17,578 6,197
East Dunbartonshire 28,957 4,474 24,483
Fermanagh And South Tyrone 28,538 12,076 16462
Gedling 30,402 11,400 19,002
Gordon 32,266 8,824 23,442
Heywood and Middleton 29,263 17,119 12,144
High Peak 29,213 11,559 17,654
Kensington 15,457 33,902 18,445
Moray 26,409 12,809 13,600
Sheffield, Hallam 28,713 7,603 21,110
Warwick and Leamington 28,121 17,195 10,926
Weaver Vale 28,304 12,098 16,206
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 27,,969 8,356 19,613
Wimbledon 24,561 15,866 8,695
Winchester 27,932 13,263 14,669
Total 691,733 366,926 343,252 18,445

First Past the Post hands a small group of voters disproportionate power

If we want our politicians to listen to all voters during a cost-of-living crisis, we need them to focus beyond the ‘target seats’ of the 2019 election. But First Past the Post keeps politicians focused on what they can say to win over voters in seats that might change hands.

When all voters are represented fairly in parliament through proportional representation, politicians can appeal to any group of voters to try and win their support. Safe-seats and therefore marginal seats, and the demographic make-up of those within those seats (in this case homeowners), are not the only ones which parties aim their policies towards.

Proportional representation would ensure that all votes and voters matter, including renters, therefore parties would have to create robust policies which help homeowners and renters alike during the cost-of-living crisis.

Do you want every vote to count?

Add your name to our call for reform

Read more posts...