24 Apr 2018

Why homes not housing is crucial in the changing world of housing

Why homes not housing is crucial in the changing world of housing

Is owning a house a right? Can you presume that by working full-time you’ll earn enough money to buy a property, which is, after all, a tenet of Conservative philosophy?

In its Home Improvements: action to address the housing challenges faced by young people report, the Resolution Foundation found that a third of Millennials will face their entire lives in the rental market. And it’s a hot topic – when the BBC ran a news piece on this story, it received 3,668 comments in 24 hours.

This jump in life-time renters poses a massive question for the country in terms of what this rental market looks like. And not least, how it will meet the needs of a cradle-to-grave renting population. Of course, this is not an uncommon aspect of European life, especially in cities, but European renters tend to have greater rights.

If we’re faced with a new world of life-time renters, we need reform to protect against short annual tenancies and rampant rental increases.

Importantly, the build-to-rent sector needs to review what these homes will look like to meet the needs of families raising their children in the rental sector, as well as assisted living or later life renters. Perhaps it should consider a customised approach, teamed with long leases!

But it’s a costly problem. Back in 2016, the Resolution Foundation reported that millennials will have paid £44,000 more rent than the Baby Boomers by the time they hit 30, due to falling home ownership and rising private rents.

Published as part of its Intergenerational Commission, Home Improvements offers policy solutions to the housing crisis, rather than merely highlighting the plight of young people. This is vital, as these youngsters become tomorrow’s middle and older age populations.

The report focuses on three areas: insecurity in the private rented sector, falling home ownership rates for young people and a long-term lack of house building.

Worryingly, the increase in renters, and the prospect of far greater retiree renters and a growing ageing population has significant cost implications for society, as the report states:

“This rising share of retiree renters, coupled with an ageing population, could more than double the housing benefit bill for pensioners from £6.3bn today to £16bn by 2060 – highlighting how everyone ultimately pays for failing to tackle Britain’s housing crisis.”

As a property journalist, it’s disheartening how nearly every property market press release is pitched at an investment-industry level, with a Bullish market spin on ever-spiraling house prices viewed only as a commodity.

This is the wrong way to do housing, and the antithesis to homes. While those investing in the market rub their hands together and home owners marvel at the uplift in equity, it’s a dizzy roundabout that only really ends one way.

Even with the Government crutch of Help to Buy, if so few can afford to enter the market or move up the ladder, who will buy these hyper-inflated properties in the decades to come? This points to a bubble bursting, were it not that a lack of supply continues to bolster the market.

More ethical models

This is where it’s so important to stress the difference that  Custom Build and community-led housing models can deliver. On the whole, these manage the concept of housing in a far more human way, putting the heart back into the home.

The potential for affordable models to make quality, tailored housing available to more people should be seized, but it needs support from local and national government to help it do this.

We know that there’s practically no-one left in the country still viewing our housing market in a positive light – apart perhaps from shareholders in the mainstream building companies. In fact, YouGov’s Homeowners Survey 2018 for the HomeOwners Alliance and BLP Insurance, reported that 83% of people now believe house prices are a ‘serious’ problem, up from 77% five years ago, with 77% saying availability of housing is a concern, up from 69% in 2014.

But key to our sector creating better housing is the Right to Build. This piece of legislation is the shortcut to change, but only if we get more people signed up to the Right to Build registers.

It’s incredible how many people who are committed to building aren’t even aware it exists, and how many councils aren’t marketing their registers.

It’s your industry, and this is the main tool by which councils evidence demand for Custom Build and bespoke homes. We should be shouting it from the treetops and it should be on every presentation and website and magazine article.

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