Friday, June 24

Landlord power isn’t just bad for tenants. It also hurts homeowners | accommodation

“If only under 30 years [voted]”Wrote the architectural historian and activist. Owen hatherleyReflecting on the results of the 2019 elections, “there would be no Conservative MPs anywhere in Britain.” But if only those over 70 were to vote, “there would be Conservative MPs in every borough except South Wales, Merseyside, the City of Manchester and central London.” The history of British electoral politics over the last decade has been defined by the apparent replacement of class by age as the best indicator of how people vote.

The most surprising explanation for why younger voters lean so much On the left (and older voters on the right) is our homeownership system. Housing, particularly in the populous south, is exorbitantly expensive and England’s social housing stock is on a Minimum of 70 years. All of our lives are also shaped by the legacy of conservative housing policy, the right to buy.

From the perspective of “generation income”, High house prices have meant the disappearance of the prospect of buying your own home and dependence on rent on the private sector, which accounts for a much larger share of their income than their parents had to pay. Not surprisingly, they have consistently voted for candidates from the left. Among private tenants, the Labor poll advantage over the Conservatives increased from 11 percentage points to a staggering 23 percentage points between 2015 and 2017. But in the same elections, older voters who owned their own homes calculated that they had little to gain. What Labor seemed to offer, through policies of more social housing and greater tenant rights, was a drop in house prices – a decrease in your equity and retirement security.

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Thus, it might appear that the political age gap is unassailable. But this doesn’t have to be the case: In 2019, the Labor Party could have been more successful if its supporters had been clearer in understanding, and showing voters, that while tenants and landlords have competing interests, the same is not necessarily true for tenants. and homeowners.

For some time, it has been the policy of the government to privilege the interests of private owners over other owners. This process began in the mid-1990s when banks introduced buy-to-rent mortgages, which evaluated the creditworthiness of buyers on the rental performance of the property, rather than their existing income. Easy financing gave homeowners an edge over first-time buyers.

Rent-to-own owners have also enjoyed tax relief: mortgage interest relief and an attrition allowance. Tax exemptions have decreased compared to what they once were, but the the wide picture remains the same. Although the UK’s 2.5 million homeowners are a small minority, because the market has been weighted in their favor, they were responsible for 18% of all residential property purchases at the end of 2019.

Now let’s consider the situation of older homeowners who are not homeowners. Hundreds of thousands of them save money in their 70s or older, long after retirement, not because they want an extravagant lifestyle but for the sake of the generations to come after them. If your plan is to help your children buy a home, rising house prices are not in their best interest; It forces them to save more, as more and more money will be needed to provide a deposit for their children’s first home.

For these people, the benefit of high house prices never materializes (they don’t plan to sell their own home), but the cost to their family is just too real. It forces the younger members of your family to live in cramped dwellings, to have less money than they should, and to spend their days working too long hours not to have time for older relatives.

What the left must do is get people to see that the obstacle to housing justice is not individual home ownership. The problem is the near-monopoly advantage owned by homeowners who have hoarded dozens or, in some cases, hundreds of homes. Their power must be broken, not just for the sake of tenants, but for the sake of individual homeowners who want the next generation to find a home of their own.

There are solutions. Let’s take the idea that long-term tenants in the private market establish the right to buy the house in which they live. How is the policy likely to look on older homeowners? If you were to go to the single homeowner to divide a two-story house in half and rent a flat, many other homeowners would find the idea objectionable.

But imagine if you were targeting homeowners who own a minimum of five properties (there are enough homeowners in that position to make a difference). When someone is hoarding five houses, why shouldn’t they be forced to allow others the opportunity to own their own homes, not to seek profit but simply to live there?

Politicians must be brave enough to explain to voters that property grabbing by commercial landlords hurts not only young tenants, but many landlords as well. A Labor party that forges an intergenerational alliance on this basis could reap serious rewards.

  • David Renton is an activist and lawyer. His book, Jobs and Homes: Stories of the Law in the Lockdown is published by Legal Action Group

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