Once again, the Lib Dems are making property-related promises in a bid to secure votes just weeks ahead of the General Election. This time, rather than a pie-in-the-sky ‘rent to own’ programme, they are targeting people who have yet to fly the nest. Nick Clegg’s ‘help to rent’ scheme would offer young people still living at home a loan which they can put towards a deposit on a tenancy, should the Liberal Democrats be a part of the next government.
“Increasingly we see young people stuck in the family home as they can’t afford the upfront costs of a deposit to rent a property despite having a paid job,” says Clegg. “It’s simply unfair that thousands of hard working young people still have to live in the same bedroom they lived in when children… When you get your own job, you want to stand on your own two feet, have your own space, and not have to rely on the bank of mum and dad. Our Help to Rent scheme removes this barrier to young people’s independence.”
Clegg describes these offspring taking up valuable space in their parents’ would-be home office, painting studio or Fifty Shades-style red room as the “clipped wing generation”, and says that up to two million people could be eligible for a ‘help to rent’ loan. In order to qualify, prospective tenants must be aged between 18 and 30, in paid employment, and not seeking social housing. People seeking a rented home in England and Wales can apply for deposit support of up to £1,500, or £2,000 if they live in London – this deposit would then need to be paid back in full within two years.
“This welcome policy will help more people into their first homes and stop them having to raise funds through pay-day lenders and other risky means,” says Ian Fletcher of the British Property Federation. “This announcement builds on the excellent work of the Confederation of British Industry and housing charity Shelter, who have encouraged employers to voluntarily offer loans for tenancy deposits, much like loans already offered for travel season tickets… Schemes such as these are also made possible by the vast majority of legitimate landlords and agents, who lower the lending risks to the state by signing up to one of three government sourced deposit protection schemes.”
It’s an admirable goal, but Helen Lock at FullFact.org believes that is based on several broad assumptions. “The claim and policy assumes that those young adults who live with their parents fit the description of ‘not being able to afford deposits’ and ‘wanting to move out,’ when neither could be the case,” she says. She does concede, however, that the number of young people living at home has increased since the recession (according to figures from the Office of National Statistics) which would certainly indicate that economic factors play a role in the living situations of many.
‘Help to rent’ does, on the surface, seem to benefit both landlords and tenants, mitigating financial risk to either side. There may be some initial concerns about the reliability of a first-time renter once they have been essentially given their deposit, but then that is what tenancy contracts are for. All of this remains hypothetical, of course, and won’t come to pass unless enough people vote Lib Dem in May. Still, it is refreshing to see at least one party leader put forward a suggestion to the private rental market that doesn’t pander to tenants at the expense of landlords, even if his plans never see the light of day.
George Spencer is CEO at Rentify.