Having somewhere decent to live is an increasing problem here in the United Kingdom, don’t you think? Basically we have much too many people chasing far too few places. There are a number of problems that surround this dire situation though. One is that for decades we haven’t been building enough houses & flats. Another is that we don’t use our available accommodation resources correctly or efficiently
In Britain we have developed a ridiculous obsession with home ownership – you see half a century ago to own your own house was THE sign of success & social standing (so it became the ambition of the masses). It also became a no effort ‘wealth creation’ vehicle because increased demand and insufficient enlarged availability meant that house values were on a consistent up-escalator (house price rises have consistently massively outperformed wage increases) – that has only further increased home ownership ambitions.
Going back a hundred years only a quarter of us British owned our own homes, fifty years ago it was about half, and now it is moving towards three quarters. This all locks-up properties, causes under-occupancy, and distorts the cost of accommodation. [Countries that have the highest proportion of home ownership are the like of Romania & those of Eastern Europe – is that really who we want to emulate? Whereas esteemed places like Switzerland, Germany, and Holland have half or ‘more’ of their population renting – rather than buying for owner occupancy].
The property rental market in England is in chaos these days; rental falls into two categories of course- social & private. ’Social’ (council & housing association) is properly regulated, but not ‘Private’ these days [despite the fact that some five million households (a fifth of the total) and twelve million people are involved]. Ideological driven PM Margaret Thatcher put a stop to our law rules thirty years ago, with a policy to deregulate and dismantle the protections for tenants; so private tenants nowadays can get treated like dirt, live in sub-standard accommodation squalor, get charged unstable exorbitant rents, and have no proper protection, nor realistic security of tenure. Private rental is a risk adverse nightmare, increasingly affecting more & more people (particularly the young) in high price City conurbations (like say capital London). The days of mass private rental have long since gone though, so we are now down from eighty to under twenty percent, and government action is long overdue to dramatically reverse the trend, wouldn’t you say?
We even get a ridiculous scenario whereby many of those unfortunates (forced by necessity to live in such disgusting housing conditions) have their excessive unaffordable rents paid by benefits – yet the authorities have no rights to intervene in any way, and simply have to ‘pay up’ to the predatory housing sharks involved. Madness?
Rent regulation is common in many countries (like say Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and even America), and aims to ensure quality, affordability, and tenancy security on the housing rental market – it covers the likes of rent cost, tenancy termination, property maintenance, and independent arbitration. Without this, there inevitably is inequality when it comes to bargaining between landlords and tenants – so market forces don’t work and amongst other things, prices go up unrestrained and unrepentantly.
The Labour Party announced a year ago that they were in favour of again introducing into law some form of private rental regulation, and they are raising that prospect again now in their General Election campaign. Their modest (inadequate?) proposals have of course been loudly shouted down by the Conservatives with the claim that it will destroy the market. They may well be right, but the only landlords it will remove from the market are the rogue scum feeding off the impoverished at the bottom – further decent and honest responsible renters will replace them if there is a worthwhile vibrant & stable market, don’t you think?
Regulation needs to be a two sided sword though; landlords need to be given new full protection from undesirable tenants who don’t pay their rent, abuse the property, cause major nuisance and excessive noise, or are involved in crime; tenants however need to have at least the same level of protection given in law to ‘Social’ tenants, so that they can rent in the fullest confidence and increase the base. Regulation works very successfully in Germany – so why don’t we just learn from their superior organisational ability in this respect and borrow their system, eh?
[This Country needs to build hundreds of thousand new homes each year – but these need to be low cost ‘affordable’ homes and not the expensive up-market units the major builders want to develop so they can make maximum profit (and stuff the needs of our Country, eh)].