Changes in Home Ownership Attitudes

The Today programme tells me that the Chartered Institute of Housing has published a new study which suggests that young people, in particular, are turning away from house ownership after being scared off by the economic downturn and the concomitant drop in house prices.

This leads to the immediate question about where these people are living. Presumably this will lead to an increase in renting. Inevitably much of this increase will be felt in the private sector. However, the private sector is not really geared towards the longer-term renter which is something that will be desirable to those seeking to stay in the sector. Indeed, the legislation tends to discourage longer term arrangements.

Contractual provisions can provide the long-term security that tenants will seek but few landlords are prepared to grant such long-term rights. In addition mortgage companies, freeholders, and insurers all tend to refuse consent for such long-term lettings. In addition there is no protection for tenants whose landlords fail to maintain their mortgage payments which inevitably erodes the security offered. Finally, the creaking Civil Court system is too slow to deal with possession claims and this pouts landlords off lettings where they cannot get rid of tenants easily.

The Law Commission proposed changes to the legislation which would help here. The creation of two tenancy types giving short-term and long-term rights would allow landlords and tenants to make a clear choice as to the nature of tenancy they were in the market for. However, without other legilative and structural changes the Law Commissions proposals will fall on barren ground.

The current government as well as its challengers are all keen to talk about housing and to make sweeping statements. However, much of this proposed action seems to get lost in a maze of reviews. Until these are backed by real legislative intent and proper incentives things are unlikely to change.

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