Property industry wants radical rental solution to housing crisis

Current Government policy is still focused heavily on ownership. However, many housing associations are facing real problems as shared ownership schemes are left vacant due to a lack of lending, with banks seeing such initiatives as "sub prime" given the high proportion of repossessions.

At the conference, the BPF is calling for changes to stamp duty, local housing allowance (LHA), and the planning system which it believes will help the rental market and encourage private companies to invest in a professional rental sector like that of the US and Europe.

Speakers include Sir Bob Kerslake, chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency, as well as Peter Marsh, chief executive of the Tenant Services Authority; Fionnuala Earley, chief economist of Nationwide Building Society; and Richard Blakeway, housing adviser to the Mayor of London.

The BPF wants to see changes made to the charging of stamp when buying multiple properties so that it is charged per purchase and not on the collective amount. This would greatly reduce costs for large investors buying a portfolio of properties which they could then manage professionally.

It also wants rental developments to be specially recognised through the planning system, given the different financing model they use to properties built for owner-occupation.

Ian Fletcher, BPF residential director, said: "Over the past decade the private rented sector has proven itself invaluable to Government objectives. It has facilitated the rapid expansion of higher education, housed those unable to find any other home, and supported the UK’s flexible labour market.

“The sector’s ability to adapt has been a huge strength; one that is even more invaluable in current economic conditions, which the Government should be harnessing. We have had an excellent independent review of the sector. It is now time to act on it and start moving forward, so that the sector can drive up standards, add to supply, and ultimately achieve its full potential."

The BPF is also calling for a return to the old payment method of direct payment of local housing allowance (LHA) to landlords. The government scrapped the old regime last April, risking the security of thousands of vulnerable people who may not be best positioned to manage their own finances. The new system risks private landlords taking their properties out of the market for social security tenants.

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