We need a radical approach to the housing crisis

An answer prompted by George Monbiot’s article in The Guardian.

The Guardian

I agree with Mr Monbiot that “government policy has created heaven for landlords and hell for tenants”.

I’m a tenant, I always have been, and probably always will be. Not through choice but because I’ve never been rich enough to buy. As tenants we’re treated like children, constantly reminded, it’s the landlord’s house we’re living in, not a property we’re paying to call our home.

All tenants are made to feel beholding, as if we should be grateful to landlords for letting us rent their property. It’s a completely asymmetric relationship. How would you feel if someone turned up at your door, and just let themselves into your home? It makes you feel vulnerable, as if you have no agency.

I think we need a radical approach, one that puts tenants front and centre. Yes we need rent controls, but also guaranteed long term leases. Terms of five or ten years should be the standard. Everyone needs that kind of stability to make a life for themselves.

There should be a register of landlords. You need a license to drive a taxi, you should have a license to rent out property. Tenants should be able to report poor conditions, neglect of a property, or abusive behaviour, without fear of eviction. A register of landlords would go some way to keeping both parties safe.

I think the owners of a ghosted property should be fined. Not small, slap on the wrist fines, but value of the property fines. Investors then have a choice, sell their ghosted property, or let them at rent-controlled rates. Similarly second homes, or holiday homes, should be either treated as ghosted properties, or taxed out of existence.

Mortgages should be calculated not on earnings, but on a proven ability to pay rent. I would argue paying rent is better indicator of someone’s ability to repay a mortgage than earnings. If lenders require a deposit, they should be offered to individuals by the government, in the same way as student loans are, and similarly administered by HMRC.

The problems with the housing market have been created by decades of poor political choices.

For the sake of everyone, we need to do better.

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