Report after report shows that homes in the private rental sector are far worse than either council housing or those under owner-occupation. One in three are officially classed as non-decent, while one in five are dangerous enough to present a category one hazard – that is, a severe threat to the health or safety of anyone who lives there. All those tenants’ tales you’ve heard or read about permanently broken boilers or mould carpeting the walls aren’t just anecdotes; they cohere into a statistical truth. One of the richest countries in history is fostering 21st-century slums.
It’s in these conditions that millions of people will live for good. Rental is no longer a stepping stone for students and young professionals; instead, it’s fast becoming a terminus. Well over a million families with children now rent. Just as lack of choice has triggered the rise of private renting, so it will keep a growing number of households stewing there. Polls suggest that around 80% of Britons would rather own a home than rent; the lack of new homes suggests that many under-35s without rich parents will be renting for decades to come.
The answer is of course to build more housing. And given that the major component of housing cost where people actually want to live is the chitty that allows a dwelling to be built then the answer is to issue more chitties.
Liberalise the planning system and you’re done.
You’d think that someone who makes their living writing about economics would grasp this fairly quickly. Supply constrained? Excellent, supply side reforms to increase supply.
But of course the Guardian employs a historian to write about economics……