17 June 2015

Does every Englishman really need a castle?

You grow up, you get a job, you buy a house…or do you?  In previous generations, owning your own home has been a mission to be accomplished as soon as possible and the importance of "getting on the property ladder" has been drummed into people from the moment they can say "estate agent". 

But what is so good about this property ladder?  At a time when the ladder seems as slippery as ever making it almost impossible for the average Joe to clamber onto the first rung, the property market (particularly in London) is in desperate need of alternatives to outright home ownership to ensure that the housing shortage, or as some say, "crisis", does not get the better of hardworking, often young, sections of the population. 

However, affordability issues are not the only reason that people are looking for alternatives to buying a property.  Recent surveys indicate that more and more people are turning to renting as a lifestyle choice because they require more flexibility to cater for a more mobile society and the desire to move around (or go gallivanting), whether nationally or internationally.  The greater demand for renting is also driven by an increase in the student population and a fall in the availability of social housing, amongst other reasons.

Is a greater emphasis on the Private Rented Sector (PRS) the answer then?  In reality, PRS is hugely diverse with a number of different ways that tenants can rent a property, ranging from a private landlords letting direct to a tenant, to housing associations or local authorities.  Until recently, the majority of homes for rent were provided by private landlords in the buy-to-let market, but issues relating to the standard of some properties (or as some would call them, "hovels") and the prevalence of nightmare landlords has opened up the market to a more professional, service-industry offering new-build accommodation.

The large institutional investors are embracing the potential in this market.  Manchester has seen Legal & General secure its first regional PRS scheme, with it providing £16 million to a PRS development at Salford, Manchester (as reported in Property Week, 5 June 2015).  Other institutional investors such as Apache and Hermes have also taken a piece of the action in the view that PRS is the answer to the evolving demographic and the changing attitudes towards owning your own property.

However, some are wary of the emphasis that has been put on PRS as the antidote to the housing shortage.  It is important that as the sector grows (as it is expected to), new policies and regulations are put in place to ensure that the market provides safe and secure housing for tenants without over burdening the market so as to put investors off. 

It will be interesting to see whether this sector of the market can ease the ever increasing pressure on housing. But, for the time being, it would seem to offer a potentially viable alternative for those who for whatever reason are unable to secure their position on the property ladder. 

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