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JONATHAN ROLANDE: Is it time to accept the Government can’t build the houses we need

There are often very grim snapshots of the current property crisis. 

But one of the most shocking I’ve read in a long time was a report this week by Generation Rent showing how key workers are being priced out of rental property across the UK and more acutely in London. 

According to the report, a teacher earning £3,500 a month would now have to spend 39% of pre-taxed income to rent a home.  These are just mind-boggling numbers. 

This means that a teacher without a partner’s income would find it almost impossible to rent an average home in the area in which they work. The situation is even worse for more poorly paid primary school teachers, hospital porters, bus drivers and many more. Yet without these people our services would collapse. 

Even more alarmingly I suspect things are likely to get worse.  

At the moment, we haven’t seen the full effects of the fast jump in rents over the past year or two, especially in tandem with other price rises that we are all only too aware of. 

Building hundreds of thousands of new homes is of course the answer – 300,000 a year are needed to keep up with demand. To actually solve the crisis we need many more than that every year.  

But with each passing month we need to be honest and admit that’s not going to happen.

 Instead we need to ask can anything be done on a smaller, more local level to help?

Paying higher salaries to these important workers would help but would also cause inflation in the property market taking us back to where we started. 

Building more rental accommodation to be let at realistic rents to key workers could begin on a larger scale.  That would help enormously.

So too would increasing the tax relief for renting a room would reflect new, higher rents. 

Many key workers receive pension contributions from their employers in comparison to the private sector. 

The minimum an employer must contribute is 3%, teachers receive 23%. Could that be optionally reduced to give more income now, when it is acutely needed?

All of this really, really matters.

If people can’t afford to live near their work they will begin to question the reason for living where they do and working in a role that doesn’t give them a wage sufficient to pay for a home.

Unless the current situation improves – and that doesn’t look likely – we will increasingly see a flight of good people from expensive locations. Others will opt for early retirement. More will consider emigration. 

London, the South/East, and other pricier locations will see their own brain drain and our schools, transport, hospitals and retail sectors will suffer.

Too much is at stake for us not to come up with solutions to solving this problem.



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