Savills latest research article, ‘Making a Return in the Rental Sector’ paints an encouraging picture for the private rental sector (PRS) and for Landlords who have invested. They say that attitudes are changing, with ‘…increasing social acceptability of renting at all stages of life.’
We see this every day in Cambridge, with a growing number of older tenants; tenants who own elsewhere in the UK but rent in Cambridge; and also through international job mobility whereby a lot of people will only be in the City for a relatively short time. As a result we see many tenants who make a lifestyle choice to rent, rather than to buy. They are prepared to pay good rents for good quality property, without the worry of paying for stamp duty, a sudden rise in mortgage rates or even a new roof when the time comes. They also have flexibility to move without the uncertainty of a house sale and the associated costs.
However, it also sends a small quiver of concern through me, as I can’t help worrying about how this swing towards private rental, taking up the slack from the ever shrinking pool of social housing, could impact negatively too. It’s not just individuals making lifestyle choices that is feeding the demand for private rental accommodation, but also, as Savills report states, ‘reduced accessibility to homeownership’ and, as already mentioned, fewer social housing options. If we wish to give people a genuine lifestyle choice then these issues need to be addressed, possibly with far more equity share, as to rely so heavily on the PRS cannot be healthy in the long term.
ARLA (The Association of Residential Letting Agents) seems to recognise the above as they have been calling for regulation of the industry for some time and it seems that now the call is becoming increasingly urgent. Without proper regulation of the industry, how are the working poor and those in receipt of benefits going to be protected against unscrupulous landlords or agents taking advantage of the housing trend? Without proper regulation, will the result be good quality property at one end of the market and a slide in basic standards at the other?
Maybe I’m seeing too much scope for doom and gloom, but I can’t help worrying….