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Housing Promises Fall On Deaf Ears

Tuesday March 31, 2015

It’s election time again!

For us voters, it means the five-yearly task of picking out the tiny grains of honest policy from the tidal wave of empty promise and worthless soundbite. It’s hard to know where to start.

Help for first time buyers grabbed the headlines in the pre-election budget in March and each party has made their pledges on how it will tackle the nation’s housing crisis. The Conservatives are apparently going to build 100,000 homes, Labour promise 200,000 and Lib-Dems 300,000. None of these figures go anywhere near enough to solving the shortage of housing in the UK.

But maybe MPs have finally wised up to the reality that a young, educated generation simply aren’t that interested in rushing onto the property ladder.

Attempts to help are misguided. Labour wants to abolish agency fees. Very worthy but simple maths means letting agencies like ours would be forced to charge landlords more. Landlords will then push up their rents and nobody wins.

The Green Party, meanwhile, has outlined policy to re-introduce rent control. It would serve only to discourage landlord investment in old buildings, a nightmare scenario in a city like Newcastle where big numbers of properties are desperately in need of some TLC.

Young 20-somethings shorn of ties to anyone or anywhere are ready to go where the money and the good life will take them. These are well-educated professionals who don’t want to miss unforgettable overseas experiences to save for an unattainable help-to-buy ISA. They’d rather the latest iPad, not a first time buyer’s one-bed pad.

As the head of a professional property management company, these are the people I see every day. Radiator not working? They want to tweet the landlord and get back out there enjoying life. They’re not looking for YouTube clips on bleeding radiators. It’s a bleeding good time they’re after.

People talk of ‘generation rent’ like it’s a bad thing, but there is no doubt it is becoming a lifestyle choice in the North East versus the, admittedly, forced position many in London are finding themselves in.

My family is Italian in origin. Over there, renting is the norm, as it is in many other parts of Europe. Germany, one of the most consistently successful economic nations, sits ahead of only Switzerland for the lowest number of homeowners of any country. They’re baffled by our crazy obsession with home ownership.

Perhaps we need to look more at our friends in parts of the world where the rent model is the accepted norm in order for us to break this mindless drive towards being mortgaged up to the eyeballs.

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