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In less than three weeks what could be the closest general election in a generation will have taken place. Whether or not we'll know the outcome and have an agreed government in place, however, remains to be seen.

Housing related issues are likely to play a major role in many voters' decision making process and just this week with the launch of the manifestos, the topic of housing has come to the fore once more. I don't profess to have all the answers but I do have some musings that may provide food for thought in the coming few weeks.

Right to Buy, a term we first heard back in the 1980s under the Thatcher administration, has been heralded as a major element of the current Tory manifesto 30 years on. As you'd expect, it has met with varying levels of agreement and support.

In my view, the principle of improving the chances of people being able to buy their own home is a positive one and should be endorsed.

However, whilst it is good that people living in social housing are given the right to buy their rental home, it does cause a problem for social housing providers, in that their property stocks become diminished, unless, of course, they are able to use the capital receipts for building new social housing - a point itself of much debate.

In my view, enhancing existing subsidies such as the Help to Buy and transferable discount schemes might be a preferable way to support those in social housing to buy their own property in the private sector, releasing their existing home back to the Housing Association for its intended use.

But we can't escape that there is an imbalance between supply and demand - we simply are not building enough properties and the effects of this are numerous. On the rental side of things, the private rented sector is here to stay and in my opinion will continue to be an option of choice for many people as it suits their lifestyle.

Yet Labour has pledged to guarantee three year housing tenancies and put a stop to excessive rent rises both of which, in my view, are unnecessary. There is no need to meddle with the sector - it is already covered by flexible tenancy legislation which provides for tenancies of up to three years or longer by negotiation and rents are, like it or not, entirely linked to supply and demand. Interfering with the private rented sector could result in landlords exiting the sector, exacerbating the issue of supply - another reason why we need to build more properties.

Labour has pledged 200,000 new homes each year by 2020 if it elected on May 7 and simply this is woefully inadequate and will do nothing to address the current shortage. We need to be building somewhere in the region of 300,000 properties a year just to catch up on the lack of investment over the last 10 years.

As with any area of politics, housing doesn't present a clear cut set of options and solutions. What works for one player in the market place, could work against another. My hope is that whoever takes the keys to Number 10 in the coming weeks sees fit to engage with those who are closest to the market, whether on the sales or rental side.

*David Westgate is Managing Director at Andrews Letting & Management

**See this week's Letter from the Publisher to find out more about the challenger parties' housing policies


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