Properties are more affordable today than 12 years ago

publication date: Oct 3, 2019
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Properties are more affordable today than 12 years ago -

why aren't we telling people?


I never quite understand why many property companies and much of the media think that only ‘bad news’ stories about property sell.


I also don’t understand why very few property companies, charities or property organisations aren’t telling people how affordable property is today, particularly for first time buyers, and still insist on making tenants feel so ‘miserable’ if they rent.


I was asked to present at the recent RICS Housing Hub and chose the topic ‘How we can afford to put a home over everyone’s head’.


To me that’s a question we should be asking and answering, rather than constantly shoving out ‘bad news’ stories.


For me the answer is: We can do this, so why doesn’t the industry and media get behind this positive message?


Are properties affordable for everyone?

The real answer to this is no. If you are in London, Edinburgh, Bristol or Brighton, and there are no homes available for those people on minimum wage or benefits in the private sector and of course no social homes, then affordability is a nightmare.


It’s often blamed on poor developers, landlords and agents.


But it’s not their fault and until this is recognised, we won’t solve affordability issues in these areas.


I regularly hear talk about ‘affordability’ and we regularly chuck out that we have a ‘housing crisis’, but the truth is no-one has actually defined it and if they have, it’s not agreed across government, industry and charities or trade bodies.


For me, both are fairly easy to define. If there are no homes available to rent privately in an area for those on minimum wage or benefits, that’s a ‘crisis’ for this sector. The reason this happens? It’s not down to greedy landlords or developers, it’s purely because a ‘real’ housing crisis is where the cost of land and building a property or existing homes cannot be delivered by the private sector.


We then have two choices:-

  1. Subsidise the private sector to deliver homes for social rent OR
  2. Invest in social housing


Playing a ‘blame game’ and trying, as we are, to ‘squeeze’ the PRS into delivering to the 1mn people on housing waiting lists is a waste of time and is resulting in the opposite – a doubling of the number of people who are homeless.


The PRS now stands ‘accused’ of being the biggest reason for homelessness. For me there is a pretty good reason for this happening and it’s not ‘evil landlords and agents’ as some organisations would have you believe.


The reality is if 25% of tenants living in the PRS are there because of a shortage of social homes, and then the government introduces Universal Credit and cap housing benefits to a point that tenants can’t pay their rent to landlords, how on earth was this ever not going to end up in increasing in homelessness?


The trick to renting on benefits in the PRS is for me to ensure:-

  1. There is one PRS contract that should be used
  2. Landlords are incentivised to rent to those on benefits, not penalised as they are currently
  3. No property should be let to someone on benefits without a Property MOT that shows it’s legally and safely let


Many great landlords can look after tenants who are eligible for a social home at a fair cost, but the government has to work with them – as do charities – whereas currently they are working against them and it’s back-firing, hurting the very people they are supposed to be helping: the tenants.


Do download my presentation on ‘How we can afford to put a roof over everyone’s heads’ and move to a healthy housing sector, not one in crisis.


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