Glimmers of hope but more political backing needed

In the past fortnight, plans, policies and long-term strategies for the housing industry have been established by Sadiq Khan and Philip Hammond to tackle one of Britain’s biggest challenges over the next 25 years. Due to the vast and complex nature of the UK housing crisis, these political events were highly anticipated by industry observers and have since been met with a wave of contrasting reactions.

It is great to see that the Build to Rent sector is now acknowledged by name at a UK and local government level in both the Budget and the draft London Plan, both recognising that the UK can only truly address the housing crisis by increasing supply. This is definite good news for our sector, we’ve come a long way in a short five years.

However, beyond this I was expecting – or at least hoping – to be greeted with overarching measures that would help address the supply factors, notably unlocking more investment opportunities and properly funding planning departments. Yes, certain policies attempt to address some of this, but more needs to be done if the Build to Rent sector is truly to thrive.

It was encouraging that the Chancellor’s Budget was focused on housing but I have been left with the feeling that renters – and more generally people who are not looking to buy a house – have been undermined. It was positive to see the Government announce it will consult on barriers to longer tenancies to see how landlords can be encouraged to offer them but it’s unlikely this will help raise standards across the private rented sector for some time. Large-scale, professional landlords like us at Get Living already offer longer term tenancies and a fairer deal for renter, what we need is more support in building supply.

In terms of Sadiq Khan’s draft London Plan, the measures included in the strategy coincide more with what we believe in. The Mayor’s Plan argues that part of the long-term strategy to tackle the housing crisis in London is to build taller and denser buildings in and around the capital, especially around transport hubs. Areas of focus such as this play to the strengths of Build to Rent and it was refreshing to see the sector get the attention it deserves.

At Get Living, we’re also ambitious with our growth targets, but the Mayor’s target to more than double homebuilding output from 29,000 to 66,000 by 2029 looks sadly unlikely against a backdrop of London housing market volatility and Savills’ forecasted fall in housing supply from next year.

Reflecting on the past few weeks, I am pleased that both the Chancellor and the Mayor of London have recognised the strengths of Build to Rent and the opportunities it brings to deliver new homes across the UK with community, great shared spaces and customer service at its core. The Build to Rent sector has a huge role to play and needs to keep speaking up to ensure the supply grows well beyond 100,000 homes so renters benefit in the capital and beyond.

Neil’s full piece can be read on Rent Magazine