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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Wed 29-Apr-15 17:17:13

Guest post: "I am a victim of the housing crisis - why is nobody offering a sustainable solution?"

Fiona Elsted considers what the parties are proposing for those without a permanent home - and says politicians must think of the bigger picture

Fiona Elsted

Fielsted

Posted on: Wed 29-Apr-15 17:17:13

(75 comments )

Lead photo

'Are these promises really likely to lead to a solution to the housing mess?'

This election is extraordinary because for the first time in a very long time, housing is a top issue. All the political parties have something to say about it and are making pledges left, right and centre. But what exactly is being offered, and are these promises likely to lead to a real solution to the housing mess many of us find ourselves living in?

The housing crisis is a multifaceted thing, and my situation represents just one of those faces. My renter profile is familiar: professional in full-time employment; over 40; married with young children; a long-term private renter. I know there are a lot of people like me. Judging by the type of pledges made, I also surmise that politicians find this group the easiest to ‘deal with’. Maybe that's because we appear to fit nicely into the ‘hardworking family’ rhetoric with which they are so enamoured, or maybe they think us likely to vote.

Let's start off with that ‘private renter’ aspect of my profile. Labour talk of making three year tenancies standard, thereby reducing the number of moves within the sector, and limiting rent rises to the rate of inflation over a three year period. They say they'll also regulate the sector through a register of landlords and the (mildly) punitive treatment of ‘rogue landlords’ who keep poorly maintained properties. The Lib Dems place some focus on rental properties too, saying they will force landlords to adequately insulate properties. The Greens promise five year tenancies and capped rents. The Tories, meanwhile, have said nothing. The cynic in me might wonder how effective any of these policies will be, but at least they are a good first step towards building a better and more equal private rental sector.

Helping private renters is one thing, but when it comes to first time buyers, the parties have come out all guns blazing. There is a whole array of promises on offer designed to provide me with what politicians think I want and so will be swayed to vote for - a home of my own. The Conservatives are pledging 200,000 new homes specifically for first time buyers under 40 at a 20% discount. They want to help me to save a deposit through an ISA and they will continue their Help To Buy scheme which allows smaller deposits and lower repayments for a set period of time. Not wishing to be outdone, Labour want to give those who've lived in an area for three years first choice of 50% of the new builds in an area. In addition, they intend to suspend the payment of stamp duty for three years for first time buyers on properties up to £300k.

The glaring problem with all of these promises is that whilst they might help a few people on an individual level, they won't manage the crisis as a whole.


None of this is much good to me though: I'm over 40; I have no money to save because I'm paying rent and have a family; haven’t lived in the same area for three years because being a private renter means I have to move a lot; and won’t be able to raise the mortgage required thanks to my huge monthly outgoings which will be scrutinized in accordance with stricter lending rules. For me - and I imagine for lots of you – the first time buyer promises are of little practical use.

However, the glaring problem with all of these promises is that whilst they might help a few people on an individual level, they won’t manage the crisis as a whole. The overwhelming focus on first time buyers seems to ignore the fact that this housing crisis is not all about them. It's also people like Janice, who lives with her family in a room in a homeless hostel and has done for five and a half years. What's on offer for her? Or people like Stacie, living with leukaemia in the private rental sector with her daughter who has severe disabilities and yet still unable to get to the top of a social housing list to access suitable accommodation. Or Jasmin, who was forced out of the London borough she has known all her life by extortionate rents. These people are affected by this crisis too, but they are so much less attractive in terms of policy making, it seems. This much I know: the solution to their housing crises are the solution to mine too.

The political parties are right to identify me as an aspiring homeowner, but they are wrong to class me an individualist. Along with the worries I have about my family's immediate situation I have other broader concerns linked to the situations Janice, Stacie and Jasmin and many others find themselves in. Those will not be alleviated by helping me to buy a house or to remain in my privately rented house, but by building more - and particularly building more social and genuinely affordable housing - and that is something none of the major parties seem willing to commit to, with the exception of the Greens. What the mainstream parties consistently fail to realise is that as much as people care about ‘me and mine’, they also care about what happens to their neighbours and in their communities. Who is offering us a housing solution that doesn't leave hundreds of thousands of people still floundering? That doesn't mean others lose when people like me gain? Nobody, as far as I can see.

By Fiona Elsted

Twitter: @fielsted

expatinscotland Wed 29-Apr-15 17:21:03

No one in government will ever do anything to touch the housing bubble.

Cherriesandapples Wed 29-Apr-15 18:20:24

The reason that house prices are high is because because of immigration, people investing from abroad, people buying second homes as holiday homes and lack of new build properties!
With waiting lists for social housing topping 5 million any promise of building 220 000 new homes by selling off housing association properties would clearly have little effect. The only way that the housing crisis will be solved will be by reducing immigration, preventing foreign investors from buying property, heavily tax second homes to deter people from having second homes and building new properties! ALOT of new homes. It is not rocket science but no government has the will to do this, instead they pussyfoot around with rent controls - pathetic!

WhistlingPot Wed 29-Apr-15 18:54:36

Great post Fiona, thank you. Just about sums up my feelings on this too.

Fleecyleesy Wed 29-Apr-15 19:21:35

I do think the most obvious answer to the question in your title is that nobody has a magic wand. It is a very serious and complex problem and no headline grabbing policies that any of the politicians propose will fix it.

The reason house prices are so high is simply supply and demand. There is huge demand for not enough housing. We have to build more.

There is one point I don't agree with and that is your point about the lady who was forced out of her area by high rents. These days, people have to move to where they can get a job/afford to live. Nobody has a "right" to live in the area where they grew up, that is idealism.

PlentyOfPubeGardens Wed 29-Apr-15 19:23:48

So vote Green then confused

Fleecyleesy Wed 29-Apr-15 19:32:29

Also the idea of fixing private rents for 3 or 5 years was proposed by someone who doesn't understand markets. The initial rent which needs to be fixed for a number of years will simply be increased at the outset to reflect the fact that it must stay constant for a few years.

Laska42 Wed 29-Apr-15 19:33:14

Cuts cuts cuts .. Restrictions on new build grant allocation and on being able to recycle money on sales of 'right to buy' former council homes to build new ones .. I work in affordable social housing development for a local council , and this year I have had my budget cut fron £1m to £0! ( yes Nothing at all!) so I cant do my job and may be being made redundant ...

And Why? Central Government cuts !! (because this current lot want to kill off public services and social welfare in all its forms and 'let the market decide')

New rules brough tin buy this current government meanthat Housing Associations and other affordable housing providers are only allowed to access government money to build new build homes if they agree to rent them at 80% of local private market rent, ( which of course many people who need them cannot afford) so have to rely on private finance .. ( who dont alwayds like lending to social housing providers, because the return isnt great)

Immigration has nothing to do with it unless you only count London where house prices have been pushed up out of all proportions and a lot of new builds are being sold to foreign investors. Most local councils run strict 'local connection criteria' on their housing allocations unless of dire emergency such as people moving from DV situations

If you care about housing , do please consider carefully the housing policies of whoever you vote for on May 7th! (please note I am not advocating any party)

Laska42 Wed 29-Apr-15 19:46:16

This is a very intersting article about Austerity politics.. aka the UK Cuts agenda subscribed to by many political parties written by an economist in the Guardian today..

alwaysstaytoolong Wed 29-Apr-15 20:15:50

The housing crisis is in no way caused by immigration. You only have to look at immigration rates to see that is a nonsense.

As a single, childless professional who earns a (relatively, I'm a Nurse) good salary I have accepted I will never own a home. I pay rent far above what my peers are paying on mortgages but my outgoings mean I'll never be able to save enough for even a small deposit. I will never inherit any money or have family help me out.

I've accepted that fact. I don't think it's my 'right' to be able to get on the property ladder. I am fortunate that I can afford rent (which means I can't afford to run a car or have holidays etc) but I'm in a much better position than many, many other people.

I'm grateful for what I have and don't feel hard done by by not being able to buy a home.

There are many more people that need housing before I do.

Cherriesandapples Wed 29-Apr-15 20:44:45

Well. I have worked in housing in London and I can assure you that immigration is a reason for the lack of housing in London. It is not just London now, many other areas aswell. It is a fact. Under Labour the waiting list for housing went massively up as more people arrived and went on the list for social housing. No one wanted to openly say this, if they did they were (and no doubt will say now) called racist. Labour loved this, it pushed their London homes up in price and gave them a supply of voters. Win win situation for them!

revealall Wed 29-Apr-15 21:06:03

The real problem is this " private local market rent". Private rent is totally controlled by by buy to let landlords not by renters. Renters aren't in any position to be picky, they have to live somewhere.The bottom end is propped up artificially by housing benefit which takes it value from the next stage up property that can only be afforded by workers. And they need to live somewhere they can get to work. So no we can't all move to Bolton or wherever the housing is cheap.
If you stopped rented housing being such an investment ( rent controls) then people could afford to find suitable housing for their needs and move around more making the market more competitive.

Laska42 Wed 29-Apr-15 21:17:25

I havent worked in a London Borough, but the Local councils I have worked in Housing for (4 all told including a big metropolitan one) and which were variously Conservative , Liberal, labour, no overall control/Independant have all had local lettings policies for housing allocations.

and the affordale/social housing schemes I have worked on have all had local lettings criteria attached....

concretecaveman Wed 29-Apr-15 21:18:19

I totally agree with the OP that more social housing needs to be built, but there are so many people in dire situations who would get priority for those that families like the OP's would never really be able to take advantage of it. Professionals in full-time work in their 40s, without disabilities or other additional needs, are never going to get a social housing flat no matter how many are built. The OP would probably prefer to live in a house in a nice area, even if that means private renting, rather than move to a flat in a block in the type of poor area where housing associations/councils could afford to build anyway.

concretecaveman Wed 29-Apr-15 21:18:34

I totally agree with the OP that more social housing needs to be built, but there are so many people in dire situations who would get priority for those that families like the OP's would never really be able to take advantage of it. Professionals in full-time work in their 40s, without disabilities or other additional needs, are never going to get a social housing flat no matter how many are built. The OP would probably prefer to live in a house in a nice area, even if that means private renting, rather than move to a flat in a block in the type of poor area where housing associations/councils could afford to build anyway.

concretecaveman Wed 29-Apr-15 21:18:34

I totally agree with the OP that more social housing needs to be built, but there are so many people in dire situations who would get priority for those that families like the OP's would never really be able to take advantage of it. Professionals in full-time work in their 40s, without disabilities or other additional needs, are never going to get a social housing flat no matter how many are built. The OP would probably prefer to live in a house in a nice area, even if that means private renting, rather than move to a flat in a block in the type of poor area where housing associations/councils could afford to build anyway.

concretecaveman Wed 29-Apr-15 21:18:49

I totally agree with the OP that more social housing needs to be built, but there are so many people in dire situations who would get priority for those that families like the OP's would never really be able to take advantage of it. Professionals in full-time work in their 40s, without disabilities or other additional needs, are never going to get a social housing flat no matter how many are built. The OP would probably prefer to live in a house in a nice area, even if that means private renting, rather than move to a flat in a block in the type of poor area where housing associations/councils could afford to build anyway.

concretecaveman Wed 29-Apr-15 21:18:50

I totally agree with the OP that more social housing needs to be built, but there are so many people in dire situations who would get priority for those that families like the OP's would never really be able to take advantage of it. Professionals in full-time work in their 40s, without disabilities or other additional needs, are never going to get a social housing flat no matter how many are built. The OP would probably prefer to live in a house in a nice area, even if that means private renting, rather than move to a flat in a block in the type of poor area where housing associations/councils could afford to build anyway.

Laska42 Wed 29-Apr-15 21:29:01

a flat in a block in the type of poor area where housing associations/councils could afford to build anyway.

new HA and council homes are not always in 'Poor' areas for 'poor' people . I have variously worked on rural housing schemes , 'eco homes' , and village and town extensions.. asome 'nice' areas.. and some notso but made 'nicer because of the new homes and the infrastructure that goes with them .. 'Social' housing isnt all identikit estates these days.. (unlike those of many of the big volume private house builders)

Yes homes should be affordable and people should have choice , but until people stop looking at them as 'investments' and 'money in the bank' and not just as places to live then the problem will always be there ..

Laska42 Wed 29-Apr-15 21:34:05

..and these have been shared ownership and 'discounted market sale' homes (for which you dont need to be on a housing waiting list but have a household income of under £60k to beable to access ) .. as well as homes for rent to those applying through the housing waiting list ..

Cherriesandapples Wed 29-Apr-15 21:39:15

Yes, we have an unhealthy attitude to houses in this country. They aren't places of shelter but places to make money out of.
It is not rocket science to realise that an additional 10 million rise in population since the 1990's, some older people living longer, mostly an increase in immigration places stress on the housing stock and increases prices.
You can't seriously say if you work in housing that immigration isn't a factor. It clearly is. An increase of 10 million people since 1990's, 5 million people waiting for social housing today!

stubbornstains Wed 29-Apr-15 21:53:53

Well, the housing crisis is a multi- tentacled problem that has been brewing for 40 years, so it's not going to be solved overnight. What we need is the political will from the mainstream parties to tackle it- and tackle it properly- 3 year tenancies and the Mansion Tax might be a start, but that's just tinkering around the edges really.

The problem is, high property prices are propping up our dysfunctional economy, and no political party wants to be the one to pull the rug out from under them and be blamed for a crash.

We need:controls on properties being bought as investments by those overseas, swingeing taxes on buy-to-leave empties, less favourable conditions for BTL landlords, longer tenancies with more tenants' rights, a ban on agents' fees to tenants, more taxes on second homes....and, most importantly, building more social rented housing. A LOT more....

By the way, to make you aware of something positive that is happening now- have you heard of Community Land Trusts?

www.communitylandtrusts.org.uk/home

I'm a member of our local village's, and we, the community, will be building affordable homes for local people- both for sale and rented, we think (in which proportions, it hasn't been decided- if it was up to me I'd have 100% rented, but then I'm a rebel without a deposit grin). In, probably, a very desirable and beautiful location (blows raspberry in concretecaveman's direction grin).

Cherriesandapples Wed 29-Apr-15 22:03:54

Community land trusts fantastic! Really great local idea!

Laska42 Wed 29-Apr-15 22:05:26

Thats fantastic stubborn we've been trying to encourage CLTs here also .. did you get a local landowner or parish council to donate the land?

fielsted Wed 29-Apr-15 22:07:22

I could but actually I'm not advocating that anyone vote solely on the issue of housing. There are parties who even if they offered me a house for a £1 I wouldn't vote for them...

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