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Drop in home ownership not the problem, say PRS developers

Angel Gardens, Moda Living (NOMA) by Fuse and Haus collective
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Build-to-rent developers have criticised a social policy think tank for over-egging the impact of a sharp reduction in home ownership in the last decade

A post by Stephen Clarke, research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, highlighted recent government data showing English home ownership at just 63.8 per cent – the lowest level since 1986.

But a number of developers of private-rented-sector housing have responded by saying that the foundation was putting too much emphasis on home ownership as a solution to the housing crisis.

Tony Brooks, joint managing director at Moda Living, said: ‘Insisting that everyone own, with all the hassle and debt that comes saddled with it, is frankly irresponsible.

‘What we should have is a balance of tenures, ensuring those most at need have costs subsidised, and that those who want to pay to live centrally can do so without taking risks in what is currently a highly inconsistent private rented sector.’

He said that in a society where Netflix, Spotify, Zip Car and Uber have created an ‘asset-light’ economy, ‘we shouldn’t disparage people simply because they do not own a house’.

Dominic Martin, operations and strategy director at Westrock, the investor and developer behind rental brand PLATFORM_, said: ‘Ownership at all costs is simply not a policy we should be promoting. It makes far more sense to offer a range of tenures, and attracting private investment will depend on a mix of policies capturing the wealth of institutional investment currently seeking income returns.’

He added that the government should do more to attract build-to-rent investment.

The Resolution Foundation highlighted figures from last week’s English Housing Survey showing the area with the sharpest drop in home ownership was Greater Manchester – down 14 percentage point from its early 2000s peak.

Double digit falls in home ownership have also been recorded in South and West Yorkshire as well as the West Midlands.

Clarke said: ‘It would be wrong to assume that home ownership is the be all and end all. The obsession with getting on the housing ladder is a particularly British one, with many counterparts on the continent taking a different approach (although the decline in ownership in this country means that only Germany now has lower ownership levels than Britain across western Europe).

‘But for those who don’t yet own, the desire to buy remains as clear as it’s ever been.’

He said that only 3 per cent of private renters expressed a preference for the flexibility of renting, according to a government report on first-time buyers.

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