Editor: It was disappointing to see so little substance from the Conservative leadership hopefuls on a group being hardest hit by cost of living pressures: renters.
Disappointing, but not surprising. Getting on the housing ladder is viewed as aspirational, and home ownership as a prerequisite for financial security. But culture often lags behind economic reality.
After peaking in 2003, the proportion of owner-occupiers in the UK has fallen steadily. For the millennial generation and younger, renting is already the default. The English Housing Survey found just two in five of those aged between 25 and 34 own their own home.
We are returning to a situation where most people rent. The problem is this reality does not seem to have reached the eyes of Westminster.
The two Tory frontunners had little to say on housing, beyond that we should build more on brownfield land and end ‘Stalinist’ targets. This lack of interest is not new; with 12 housing ministers in as many years, there has been a lack of joined-up thinking in central government.
Yet, given both candidates’ stated aims of reducing the burden of the cost-of-living crisis, there is a group that stands out: those in the private rented sector.
Following a dip during the pandemic, rents are back up at an all-time high. Private renters spend 32% of their income on rent (or 42% in London) – far higher than the equivalent proportional spend for mortgage holders.
And high rents mean high deposits. For many, finding five weeks’ rent at current rates is impossible. The average Londoner would have to stump up £2,241.
Reforming the way we approach deposits would relieve pressure on Generation Rent, which is feeling the pinch more than most.
Gary Wright, co-chief executive, flatfair