Everyone should own their own home – that was the message of the Margaret Thatcher government.
In 1971, around 50% of people owned their own home. However, as the baby boomers got better jobs and pay, that proportion of homeowners rose to 69% in 2001. Homeownership was here to stay.
Thanks to TV programmes such as Homes Under The Hammer, baby boomers started to jump on the buy-to-let bandwagon – people in Rotherham invested in these properties as an investment. Now Rotherham first time buyers were in competition with the landlords to buy these smaller starter homes. This pushed up house prices in the 2000s (as mentioned in Part One). When combined with economics, banks and government policy, the prices are now beyond the reach of many first time buyers.
But are the Rotherham landlords fanning the flames of the housing crisis bonfire?
My opinion is that the landlords of the 5,416 Rotherham rental properties are not exploitive. In fact, they are making many positive contributions to Rotherham and the people who live here. Like I have said before, Rotherham (and the rest of the UK) isn’t building enough properties to keep up the demand caused by high birth rates, job mobility, growing population and longer life expectancy.
According to the Barker Review, for the UK to standstill and meet current demand, the country needs to be building 8.7 new households each and every year for every 1,000 households already built. Nationally, we are currently running at 5.07 per thousand and in the early part of this decade were running at 4.1 to 4.3 per thousand.
It doesn’t sound a lot of difference, but let us look at what this means for Rotherham …
For Rotherham to meet its obligation on the building of new homes, Rotherham would need to build 399 households each year.
Unfortunately we are missing that figure by around 167 households a year.
For the Government to buy the land and build those additional 167 households, it would need to spend £24,473,638 a year in Rotherham alone. Add up all the additional households required over the whole of the UK and the Government would need to spend £23.31bn each year… I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the country hasn’t got that sort of money
With these problems, it is the property developers who are buying the old run-down houses and office blocks which are deemed uninhabitable by the local authority, and turning them into new attractive homes. These are either rented privately to Rotherham families or to those people who need council housing because the local authority hasn’t got enough properties to go around.
The bottom line is that, as the population grows, there aren’t enough properties being built for everyone to have a roof over their head.
Rogue landlords do need to be put out of business, whilst tenants should expect a more regulated rental market, with greater security for them. The system should ensure that tenants can rely on good landlords providing them high standards in a safe and modernised home.
As in Europe, where most people rent rather than buy, it doesn’t matter who owns the house – all people want is a clean, decent roof over their head at a reasonable rent.
So only you, the reader, can decide if buy-to-let is immoral, but first let me ask this question:
If the private buy to let landlords had not taken up the slack and provided a roof over these people’s heads over the last decade… where would these tenants be living now?
The alternative doesn’t even bear thinking about!