Bookmark and ShareVeronika Thiel is a researcher and project manager on nef’s Access to Finance team.

To LetThe Institute of Chartered Housing together with York University has published a review on the private rented sector market in the UK, assessing its current contribution and future potential for providing quality housing for everyone.

Very timely one should think. The national British sport of climbing the property ladder has just been caught red-handed in systematically doping with two particularly cheap and delusion-inducing drugs: cheap credit and speculative housing. Renting was a short-term solution, and only long-term for those who would never be eligible for a mortgage – usually people on low incomes.

This development is not surprising, as seemingly everyone with a regular income over £25,000 was able to buy a house. Mortgages were easy to get, and buying a property seemed to be a quick way to make money. In the last 10 years, housing prices rose fast, sometimes doubling in values within 5 years, allowing people to make massive profits warranting their investment.

For many people the doped market did work, and they are now better off than they were before – if they sold in time.

But now that the bubble has burst, many more people are left with unaffordable mortgages and housing with negative equity. Some people blame subprime lending for this crisis – but given the unstable renting market in the UK, with some landlords charging maximum rents for subprime flats, buying was the only option for families wanting to provide their children with a stable, good home.

Now, many are in the impossible situation where they cannot pay their mortgages, but a sale will not relieve them of their debt either. Banks rush to repossess houses where they would have waited a little longer before the crash.

It is clear that those who currently struggle with repayment need help to avoid mass evictions and US-style “tent cities” springing up across the country. But we must use this opportunity to realise some truths:

  1. Houses are for living, not for making money.
  2. Not everyone can own a house. There just isn’t enough money to go around.
  3. It is perfectly possible to bring up a family in rented houses. Millions of people in other European countries do it, including large chunks of the middle classes and professionals.
  4. Speculative housing markets make housing more expensive and less accessible: the rising prices forces people OFF the ladder rather than on.

Let’s get renting out of the dog-house and put long-term stable housing conditions over the delusion of eternal growing house prices. It is this delusion that is currently breaking many families’ banks, not their aspiration of providing a home for their families.