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What's right with the housing market

A view from the positive side.

We hear a lot about what is wrong with the UK housing market. But, despite the stories of gloom, there is actually a lot right with our housing system.

There was a time when home ownership was low, rented accommodation was poor and no safety net existed. Those days are behind us. Home ownership is high and most rented accommodation is of a good standard.

The standard of rental properties has increased due to various pieces of legislation. Plus, market demand. There was a time when tenants dare not report problems. They feared rent increases. Or worse, eviction. But changes to the law prevent landlords evicting a tenant who has reported problems. We support this tenant protection.

Additionally, over the past few decades, government policy has encouraged private landlords. More landlords and more properties results in more competition. This can only drive up standards. At the same time it has a natural limiting effect on prices.

So, what about homelessness?

Homelessness is often viewed as a symptom of a broken housing market. Finland gets held up as an example of zero homelessness. This is simply not true. Finland has homeless people although the number is falling.

Studying Finland's successful approach is interesting. It shows that it is not the housing system that is most at fault. Generally homeless people need help with life skills like budgeting and prioritising. Finland provides judgement free counselling as well as a small flat. This holistic and caring approach is a stark contrast to the UK.

At the other end of the scale is Manilla in the Philippines. Here we find the highest homelessness in a place with 4.5 million rough sleepers. It is also a place with relatively low accommodation costs and rent caps. It is proof that a Rent Control Act doesn't work.

Renters responsibility

We are always amazed by the inaction of some tenants. We've viewed properties where there is a leak in the roof. But instead of putting a bucket under it, the water gets left to drip down to another level. All the time without the tenants informing the landlord!

One of our own tenants lived for several months with an electrical fault. The power tripped now and then at unpredictable times. They didn't say anything so we were oblivious. Of course, as soon as we found out we sent an electrician in to sort the problem.

Anyone living in rented accommodation should never endure problems. They should report issues to their landlord. On occasions, this doesn't get any action. In which case, there is a simple way to complain to the local council.

What is right?

In short, the UK's housing market is not in the bad way that we often hear. It is far from perfect, but has a lot going for it.

Homelessness is relatively low, although any homelessness is too high. Most rental accommodation is good quality. There is a clear system of getting problems resolved. For now there is healthy competition in the rental sector.

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