Is homeownership the answer to all our problems?

Martha Kool

Senior Account Manager

This country and its government are historically wed to the idea of homeownership. We tend to see it as the ultimate goal and marker of success. But we also have an ongoing and fairly critical housing crisis, one which is unlikely to be solved by all 70 million of us buying up the entire housing sector. So, if we are going to accept renting as an inevitable fact of living in the UK, isn’t it about time the Government started planning for a range of high-quality housing options?

This is not a criticism of the traditional homes-for-sale model – it is of course an important option. ‘Option’ being the operative word. People should be free to choose between a range of tenures to suit their individual needs, whether that be a young person wanting to get on the housing ladder looking at shared ownership, a family who prefer the flexibility of a purpose-built rental product, someone who loves to travel and is looking for shorter-term more communal living, or an older person deciding to downsize and enjoy the benefits of accessible amenities and care.

And the investment is there. The Build to Rent (BTR) sector is consistently growing and maturing, co-living is attracting the interest of large developers, and the older people’s housing sector is seeing a range of models emerge. What’s missing is understanding, and a planning system which allows for this investment and enthusiasm to translate into real schemes going up. BTR gets a mention in the National Planning Policy Framework, but if you look at Local Plans across the country, very few include specific policies on or even reference these kinds of alternative housing products.

With a new government (which will hopefully last longer than a month) remaining committed to levelling up, now is the time to start championing a diverse housing market. This will contribute to more than just housing targets – town centres, high streets, and cities thrive when they are legitimately mixed-use and home to a wide demographic.

There are plenty of countries where renting is considered a perfectly normal lifelong plan, and this translates into high-quality buildings and communities. The UK purpose-built rental sector is well on its way to living up to this through its own commitment, but if the Government is serious about solving the housing crisis it needs to start lending its support in a bigger way, through both proactive planning policies and a change in tone when it comes to what ‘successful’ living is.

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