Martha Mackenzie
Martha Mackenzie

By Martha Mackenzie

Tenure blues

New polling released today by ComRes tells us, once again, that British people don’t want to rent. Given the choice, the vast majority of people (81 per cent) would rather buy a home than rent one.

Even the young adults who are supposed to ‘enjoy the flexibility’ of private renting seem to find it pretty painful: three quarters of 18 to 24 year olds would rather own their own home.

Unfortunately, few people think that this preference will ever be realised. ComRes found that almost three quarters (71 per cent) of people believe it is harder than ever before to buy a home in Britain today.

When this question was asked to 45 to 54 year olds, they were even more despairing (78 per cent). This demographic are watching painfully as their children are priced out of their local area, unable to use the private rented sector as a stepping stone.

These sentiments chime with our findings, released last week. Our research found that only six per cent of renters say it is their preferred choice of housing, yet one third (32 per cent) believe that they’ll be living in the private rented sector for the rest of their lives.

What does this tell us?

Contrary to what commentators, and even Ministers, sometimes tell us, people do not enjoy the flexibility of private renting.

The private rented market… is an important option for the millions of people who prefer the flexibility that renting offers, or who are simply saving up for a deposit so they can buy a place of their own.”- Housing Minister, Kris Hopkins, October 2013.

Replace ‘flexibility’ with ‘instability’ and ‘simply saving up for a deposit’ with ‘no other option but to rent’ and we get a better picture of today’s private rented market.

Our ‘9 million renters’ campaign has been reporting on the lack of basic protections for renters. Despite living in the worst conditions in the country many renters don’t complain because they’re afraid that if they do, their landlord will evict them. In this context, is it any wonder that people don’t want to rent? Private rented homes need to become a better, more stable place to live.

We also know that half of England’s families who rent do so because they cannot afford to buy. We need to tackle our housing shortage head-on and build the homes that are so desperately needed.

Where next?

We need political leadership to make change happen. As all political parties gear up for the General Election campaign, they must start to show the public that they are serious about addressing these very real frustrations.

Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay used a recent speech in the House of Commons to declare:

There will be a moment at which housing bursts through, and when that happens I suspect that whichever party is best able to capitalise on the public anger will be rewarded at the ballot box.”

I suspect we are now hurtling towards this moment. Today’s polling figures make it clear that public anger is rising, the question now is who will reap the political benefit when it bursts through?

One Response to Tenure blues

  1. Flat Detective says:

    Good article and all very true, but most politicians and landowners have everything to lose by tackling the problem. In the first instance we need to mobilise those of us losing out (particularly younger generations) to become more politically engaged, and actually vote on the issue. Our futures are at stake!

    http://flatdetective.blogspot.co.uk