A Yorkshire online estate agent is urging political parties to use the general election as an opportunity to rethink the UK’s housing policy and come up with a better long-term strategy insulated against party politics.
A lack of investment in new stock over several Parliaments has led to today’s crisis with fewer and fewer people now earning enough to raise a deposit to buy their own home. Asking prices are at a record high and in turn, as demand for property to let has increased, so has the cost of renting.
Under David Cameron, the Conservatives pledged a surge in construction to provide more affordable homes and only six months ago the Government indicated it was aware it needed to do more to help the “Just About Managing”. But, just last month, there was little in the Budget likely to change current trends and house-building targets set for 2020 have already been watered down.
MD of Harrogate-based online agent Esale, David Rook, said: “One of the biggest problems we face is that each Parliament can only really plan five years at a time and, to solve the conundrum we face in the UK property market today, we need a strategy for much longer than that. It could take 15 or 20 years to address some of the issues which have been developing over the past couple of decades and there just never seems to be the time or political will to take the bull by the horns.
“Whoever ends up winning on June 8 only gets a mandate to govern until 2022 and that’s just not long enough to make an impact on the property crisis.”
Organisations such as the British Housing Federation, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the National Landlords Association, the Council For Mortgage Lenders and the Construction Industry Council already exist to represent their own sectors. But Mr Rook points out there is no overarching organisation giving a clear long-term direction for all to work towards. At the moment, strategy is set by successive governments, often with different agendas.
Mr Rook added: “What we desperately need is a single entity which can work with builders to address the skills shortage slowing building projects down; with local government on ways to identify land for new homes, to speed up the planning process and tackle firms who have built up land banks purely for investment purposes; with lenders to thrash out more innovative ways of helping buyers access affordable mortgages and with architects and housing associations on how to design and build affordable housing people actually want to live in.
“I’m not a politician and there will no doubt be some who will scoff or call me naïve but one thing is for certain and that is that we can’t keep on doing what we’ve been doing for 20 years. We owe it to our kids to tackle this problem and, if it takes something radical and different, personally, I’d be right behind it.
“Yes, I am an estate agent and my job is to get the best possible price for any property we take instruction on. But it’s also inevitable that, one day, we will reach a ceiling and, if we’re not careful, it could be at a point where none of our children or even our grandchildren have any chance of owning a home of their own.
“Just like everyone else, surely a responsible estate agent has to wonder if they would be happy if, in future, their services were only of interest to the super-rich. Is that what we really want? But first I truly believe it’s time for an outside agency to step in to put an end to the talking shops and studies and to do something definitive to address all the separate issues which have led to the lack of supply.”
Harrogate-based Esale is currently rated the UK’s No2 estate agent for customer service by independent customer review website Trustpilot. The company is also a member of the ProperStar network, advertising property in 51 countries on 80 different websites and in 19 different languages.
In February this year, the company was named Yorkshire’s best online estate agent at the Acquisition International Business Excellence Awards and has recently raised in excess of £45,000 through crowd-funding to invest in a marketing drive to establish the company as a significant national player in the property market.