Leading figures from the property industry will meet today at the British Property Federation’s annual residential conference in London to call for a radical shift to rental housing.

The BPF said that with repossessions almost doubling and tens of thousands facing negative equity, the creation of a professionalised, branded rental sector, where large landlords provide long term homes to rent, 'could be the answer to Britain’s woes'.

Speakers at the conference include: Sir Bob Kerslake, chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency; Peter Marsh, chief executive of the Tenant Services Authority;Fionnuala Earley, chief economist at Nationwide Building Society; and Richard Blakeway, housing adviser to the Mayor of London.

The BPF is seeking changes to stamp duty when buying multiple properties and portfolios, reinstallment of the system of direct payment of local housing allowances to landlords, and it also wants rental developments to be specially recognised through the planning system, given the different financing model they use to properties built for owner-occupation.

It said these changes will help the rental market and encourage private companies to invest in a professional rental sector like that of the USA and Europe.

Ian Fletcher, BPF residential director, said: 'Over the past decade the private rented sector has proven itself invaluable to government objectives.

'It has facilitated the rapid expansion of higher education, housed those unable to find any other home, and supported the UK's flexible labour market.

'The sector's ability to adapt has been a huge strength; one that is even more invaluable in current economic conditions, which the government should be harnessing. We have had an excellent independent review of the sector.

'It is now time to act on it and start moving forward, so that the sector can drive up standards, add to supply, and ultimately achieve its full potential.'