Under Cameron, initiatives were implemented which were aimed at helping more and more first time buyers to get on the property ladder. In a drastic policy u-turn, May has now announced that rather than pursuing this same path, she is going to address the ‘broken’ UK rental market and seek to improve conditions for tenants across the country.
On February 7th the government released their new housing white paper. The aim is for it to inject some new life into the UK housing market, encourage developers to build more new houses, and to demystify any confusion surrounding land ownership. The private rental market in the UK is, by the government’s own admission, ‘broken’; there are currently 4.3 million people renting solely due to the fact they cannot afford to get on the property ladder.
There are several radical new elements to May’s approach. The government intend to encourage the use of compulsory purchase orders to seize land from developers who are not building on it fast enough. By keeping it empty, the land remains useless and in a country as small as the UK this empty land can make a real difference. They are also whipping local councils into line, mounting pressure on them to calculate their borough’s 5 years housing needs and work out exactly how to address this.
The other major change is the plan to make tenancies more ‘family-friendly’ by introducing leases to a minimum of 3 years in new build homes which are rented privately. However, this change will not extend to homes already owned by private landlords which were bought specifically as an investment, which means hundreds of thousands of tenants will still be at the mercy of unscrupulous, money hungry landlords.
Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction as a way of making the UK rental market a fairer, more transparent place for everybody involved.