Britain should shift its focus away from property ownership and look at ways to boost the rental sector instead, many housing experts argue. For many years, the UK has guided its housing policy towards home ownership. It was almost like a rite of passage that you grew up, found work and took out a mortgage. Now, that is no longer the case for a large section of the population. Many people have been priced out of the housing market, while others simply do not want the financial burden of a mortgage or prefer the freedom to move as and when they wish. Also, there is a potential rate rise on the cards, which could leave households struggling to pay their mortgage.

Britain’s policy that home ownership is the best solution for most people has its flaws. It means many people are lumbered with a large, long-term debt and they face losing their home if their circumstances change and they cannot keep up their mortgage repayments. It also means the workforce is less mobile. It is harder to go where the work is if you are paying off a mortgage in another part of the country, so this also affects productivity. Families need to be flexible, particularly when they are starting out in their careers, so that they can move onwards and upwards. A mortgage could be seen as a burden as it ties them to one location.

One answer could be to change mindsets away from ownership and instead build a decent private-rental sector. Unfortunately, in the UK, there are a large number of amateur or accidental landlords who are letting out properties with little or no experience of managing properties and the responsibilities that lie with that. Many other countries have well-established institutional and professional landlords who understand their role and responsibilities. This could be a model which the UK should look at. Instead, those amateur landlords, along with the rogue or criminal ones, mean the profession continues to have a bad reputation. Tenants complain of poor service, lack of security and low-quality living accommodation. According to the English Housing Survey, a fifth of rental properties do not have the basic fire safety precautions, while more than one in four rental homes does not meet the Decent Homes Standard.

Jean-Marc Vandevivere, PLATFORM chief executive, argues for the need to establish a thriving build-to-rent sector. PLATFORM, along with other BTR landlords, is also committed to making long-term tenancies available, along with transparent reviews of rents. Quality, private rental homes can boost the UK economy by making it easier for workers to move between jobs and cities. They can also afford to move to areas where they could not afford to buy. At present, an ideal candidate for a particular position could be trapped in another part of the country because he or she cannot sell their property and move. By offering decent rental accommodation, people have the flexibility to move. Build-to-rent is also good for the economy during a downturn, because people are more likely to consider renting as an option in a tough economic climate, rather than buying.

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