Is it not about time that the emerging private rented sector (PRS) was subject to much greater critical appraisal?
Too much of what we read in the property press is little more than cheerleading, which can fail to distinguish between the narrow commercial interests of PRS investors and the broader national interest. While there is plainly a strong commercial case for the sector, (22.05.15) we have to be careful about over-promising in respect of its potential impact on the country’s ability to meet housing need. The only time we have adequately housed the nation was in the 30 years after 1945 and during that period, on average, around 50% of that supply was provided by public housing. It is highly unlikely the private sector will ever fully meet the UK’s supply-side requirements, nor is it reasonable to expect it to. Its primary duty must, quite reasonably, be to its investors.
In addition, the larger and more high-profile the sector becomes, the more likely it is to face calls for greater regulation on both rents and security of tenure from across the political spectrum and that pressure is going to be most acute in London. We would be much better off acknowledging the niche nature of PRS and promoting it as a good solution for certain types of occupiers (generally those that are younger, wealthier and more transient) rather than a mass market solution.
Housing is one of the most important challenges facing the UK today and has a major impact on the country’s economic efficiency and social cohesion. Consequently, the property press should help to facilitate a wide-ranging debate that moves away from the ideological myopia that surrounds current housing supply discussions, to focus on all routes to increasing supply from both public and private sector sources. Doing so would be in the best long-term interests of both the PRS sector and the nation as a whole.
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