The housing sector and public opinion

The housing sector and public opinion

Following on from previous articles regarding the state of housing in the UK, the natural evolution of the housing market and changing opinions about housing, interesting analysis has been released this week with regards to how the public view housing.

Released by Ipsos Mori this week in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference, the report makes for very interesting reading.

First of all, it’s clear that a majority of the public see the housing situation, however loosely the term is used, as being in ‘crisis’. This evidentially, however, means different things to different people. Whether you’re a middle class, middle earning homeowner with a large amount of capital, or a young couple looking to enter the market, will shape your view of the situation. In terms of the priorities of homeowners we can safely say that increases in capital gains would rank highly whilst an increase in availability and stability in prices may be high for first time buyers (FTB).

With this in mind it’s not particularly surprising that ‘three-quarters of Britons think that there is a national housing crisis’. The survey also found 82% of people agree that “everyone should have a right to be able to live in a decent quality home whether or not they own it”. Only 5% disagree.

Published in its report, Ipsos Mori said that the survey also found:

  • The public largely reject the notion that there is “isn’t much that British Governments can do to solve country’s housing problems”; more disagree than agree by a margin of 5:1.
  • They are equally clear that that buying/renting is harder than it was for their parents’ generation, and that it will be harder for today’s children; these sentiments have hardened since the previous Ipsos MORI/CIH survey in 2014.
  • A majority, 52%, agree that there is not enough affordable housing to buy/rent locally, higher than the 41% who agree that there is a local housing crisis.
  • 65% consider the housing market to be unfair
  • Confidence that the Government has the right policies to deal with the country’s housing problems remains low; 18% have a great deal/fair amount of confidence (little changed on the 20% in 2014).
  • Private renters in particular are currently feeling the effects of the high cost of housing; 44% agree they might have to leave their local area in the future because the cost of housing is too high.
  • 52% are very or fairly concerned about being able to pay the rent at the moment, 56% say concerns about their housing costs are causing them a great deal or a fair amount of stress.

It’s a stark reality and one that requires attention from government figures who have influence over the private housing sector. Of particular concern to them should be the negative perception that the authorities purvey, as well as the extremely low confidence held regarding a solution.

What might this solution look like though?

What we’re seeing, essentially, is a government that seem willing to pass the blame for a stuttering supply on letting agents and landlords whilst it passes unnecessarily aggressive legislation to discourage the proper investment from buy-to-let (BTL) landlords.

As has been seen time and time again across the media, small landlords and those looking to enter the market are being discouraged from doing so by heavy taxation announced recently by national government. This discouragement from entering the market is causing a lack of supply.

Great strides had been made in recent years in regulating the letting agent sector in order to make unscrupulous agents accountable to a proper body and to restore confidence to the sector. It wasn’t a move that was only celebrated by tenants, too, but also by the many reputable and professional agents across the country.

With buying opportunities good and confidence in agents high, we were seeing a very positive marketplace for BTL up until the announcement by George Osborne regarding his new tax system. What we’re now seeing is the evaporation of that hard won trust and confidence due to a situation of the government’s making.

Quite simply the solution lies in those concerned with the current taxation system being encouraged to come back into the market, to seek financial advice and also take the time to speak to professional, reputable agents who are able to provide the proper guidance. Only when BTL landlords are encouraged and helped once again can supply into the rental market return to sustainable levels that see tenants paying fairer and longer term rents.

The market is stable and flourishing but as long as supply is choked with regressive tax policies we may well find that average tenants don’t have access to the quality properties that are on the market as some BTL landlords look for an easier path for their money. This should be reversed in order for them to be brought back into the fold to provide quality, fairly priced housing overseen by reputable and professional management agents.

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