We will never reverse the low quality of the housing stock now being built in this country, until we confront the issues that caused it and are continuing to encourage it.
- Right to Buy – Since it’s introduction in 1980 by Margaret Thatcher’s government, Right to Buy has removed over 2 million social housing units from the system. Those in the most desirable areas, such as central London and the towns and villages of the Home Counties will never be replaced like for like, because the land is no longer available. Even were any existing non-residential sites become available, given the open market value of housing in high demand areas, the private sector will always ensure that it outbid the local council. The Homes and Communities Agency, funded by DCLG, would be equally hard pressed to compete given its relatively limited budget for such uses.
The impact of this loss of affordable housing has forced ordinary, working class people further and further out to the edges of our large urban areas, in virtually every area of the country.
- Buy to Rent – this triggered a major building programme, which in turn encouraged the developers to produce a large number of lower quality off the shelf housing units, to fill the ever increasing deficit created by the RTB policy.
How many landlord properties are there currently in the market?
Landlords – the stats
– The number of landlords in the UK increased by 7% to reach 1.75 million in 2013-2014
- In 2014, two million private landlords owned and let five million properties in the UK (Paragon)
Tenants – the stats
– In 2014-2015, 19% of households – equivalent to 4.3 million – were renting privately (English Housing Survey)
– The number of private tenants in England reached 3.84 million in 2011-2012 (English Housing Survey)
– Some 59% of 20 to 39 year-olds in England will be privately renting by 2025 (PwC)
– In 2015 there were 5.4 million households in the UK’s PRS, a number which will grow to 7.2 million by 2025 (PwC)
– In 2015 the PRS accounted for 22% of all UK households (ResPublica)
- Help to Buy – combined with the difficulties experienced by first time buyers in obtaining finance from the normal sources, has seem public money, that should have been spent on replacing the depleted social housing stock, sucked out of the system and placed straight into the pockets of the landowners and developers who are already applying a stranglehold on housing supply via their strategic land holdings and failure to follow through on extant planning permissions.
Even worse, the rules for getting money from the scheme have now been made so lax that, according to the government’s own survey, thousands of those who have used it, didn’t actually need to and could have purchased their own home without financial help from the taxpayer.
The government now plans to compound this, by placing a further £10 billion within their reach, while putting only £2 billion into replacing our severely depleted social housing stock.
The current proposed government funding of £2billion for affordable housing and a further £10billion to extend the Help to Buy scheme, is completely upside down and will simply continue the current lack of supply and lack of delivery we are experiencing.
Social Housing waiting lists
In 2016 there were over 1.2m on council house waiting lists. This figure is actually down on previous numbers, because of what some might suggest is an attempt by central government to use local government as a way of covering up their failings. By requiring a tightening up of the criteria for eligibility, tens of thousands of those previously entitled to be listed, have simply disappeared. These families and of course single under 25’s, have been forced into the hands of what can be an over-priced and sub-standard private sector rented housing market, where security of tenure virtually non-existent and standard of accommodation often a lottery.
By 2021, a quarter of the British population will be in rented accommodation. Much of it private and with potentially many of these tenants struggling to meet the ever increasing rent bill.
Unless government allows councils to begin and then sustain a major council house building programme, the quantity of housing will always be squeezed by a profit driven market. Not only will this continue the opportunities for exploitation of tenants, it will also ensure that developers are able to build to the lowest standards, safe in the knowledge that, no matter what they build, it will always be a sellers market.