In 2000, most properties – bar London – cost around £50,000. The average price today is over £160,000, according to the Land Registry. That’s a three-fold increase and although wages have risen, they certainly haven’t risen by this amount.
And that’s if you can afford to buy a property. Many can’t and for those who need support through social housing, in 1997 according to Shelter’s databank, there were a million households waiting for a home and rather than doing anything about it, councils and local MPs have allowed these numbers to increase by 70%.
The only market where people can live cost effectively is in the private rental market, now the second most popular way to live in England according to the latest English Housing Survey. Rents are pretty good value for money. Most people who rent properties with gross yields below 5.5% will be paying less in rent than they would in ‘dead money’ in interest to the mortgage lender – providing they bought with a 95% mortgage at a 5% interest rate. And although renters don’t benefit from price growth, they also don’t have to worry about maintenance and can up sticks and leave at very little cost, trading up and down as their life changes.
However, the big problem is, whichever property market you are in and want to move into, we have more people than homes. This means property prices and rents and the need for council housing is just going to go one way – and that’s up.
Few politicians or local authorities seem to be taking responsibility for how many homes are actually needed in their area. Instead, many are ‘turning’ on the providers they use such as landlords and agents, trying to ‘blame them’ for their own lack of action. Licencing landlords and banning letting agents from charging fees to tenants isn’t going to get rid of the number one problem we have: those ‘in charge’ are OK at planning what schools we need, how many police are required and medical care, but when it comes to making sure there are enough places for people to live, they have failed to get it right for over 30 years.
In my view, politicians and local authorities have run out of time and run out of people to ‘blame’ too. The idea of spending time hitting out at the private rental sector they are insisting placing socially vulnerable and low paid workers into – without protecting them through market regulation – is missing the main point.
For me, the political party which should win in 2015 is the one that proves to voters they will create cost effective housing for those that need council homes, need affordable or private housing to rent or buy. To do this, they need to identify land which can be made available to build on and make sure they find a better way to ‘agree’ with the local community what is built and where – rather than ‘dumping’ planning permission on them which they typically find out about via the local newspaper.
Property policies which deliver cost effective housing moving forward is essential over the next 12 months. Anyone who thinks they can’t afford to buy or rent or find a council home should take their time to bombard local MPs wanting to get elected next year with requests for a decent roof over their head.
For more information on property prices, rents and how to research what’s happening in your local market, visit www.propertychecklists.co.uk