Although opinions may differ over the precise nature of the UK’s housing crisis, it is clear that there is a significant problem of supply which private renting will have a major role in helping to solve. 18% of the population (around 10 million people) are housed by the private rented sector, double the proportion of 2000. Furthermore, a year ago the average age of a first time-buyer was 37 but here at Rentify we are noticing more and more renters of that age not just continuing to rent, but renting in shared dwellings and HMOs. It is therefore clear that there is now not just a huge squeeze on the home-buyers’ market, but on the rental market too.
The failure of successive governments to increase the UK’s housing stock is at the root of this. The positive to take, however, is that as it continues, demand for private rented accommodation will increase. This in turn will have a positive knock-on effect for landlords: as renting becomes the norm, people don’t just grow accustomed to it, but in many cases come to prefer it. The more housing that private landlords can provide to ease the crisis, the greater the cultural shift will be in favour of renting. This in turn means that landlords should be reaping the rewards long into the future.
It is clear that calls for excessive regulation such as rent controls should be ignored in the current climate. The government should be aware it desperately needs private renting to make up for the lack of housing. The RLA’s chairman Alan Ward has indeed made some interesting suggestions for how to ‘mobilise the small army’ of private landlords to help ease the crisis even further. There will need to be a balance between these individuals and institutional investment by private housing companies in private renting. And a good place to start would be with the wasted space and unused buildings in cities (even if you subscribe to the theory that there is a crisis of under-occupation rather than a housing shortage). The larger of these inner city projects should interest private companies, while the smaller could be developed by individuals (as long as planning rules are relaxed).