I have worked in the property business for 40 years, and having run Rolfe East for 35 years, I have seen cycles in the property market, and in the economy at large. Recently, I have been in conversations with various representatives from government to discuss housing, as this is obviously an area of real interest, affecting as it does every single person living in the UK.
I was able to share my observations, of which there are three main points. Firstly, too many people are caught in the rental trap, where high rents makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to save for a deposit. Secondly, and this is a consequence of the first observation, if people do not buy property, the state will end up paying rent once these people do retire, and this will be a problem that dwarfs the pension crisis. The last point is that I believe buying your own home should be easier and also more fulfilling.
I have some proposals that I have shared in conversation with those that I met in Westminster, and they are as follows.
For established tenants - regular rental payments should be proof of ability to make mortgage payments. Proof of payments would need to extend for at least a year, but at the same time lenders should understand that if you can pay rent, you can pay a mortgage, at least in a lot of cases. There should of course be lower stamp duty for first time buyers, at present the threshold is set too low and is prohibitive. 100% mortgages for first time buyers, supported by a government insurance scheme could also boost home ownership.
Landlord shared ownership schemes exist in blueprint already, but need tweaking for the private sector. Many landlords would sell a share to their tenants, but this would need to be incentivised. Perhaps a tax relief on the initial or subsequent sale could work, if the equity was high enough. This would have the added effect of securing the future for tenants and providing more stability, whilst not involving cost or risk to the state.
Each new development should have a portion dedicated and exclusive to owner occupiers, so that home-makers wouldn't be in competition with buy to let landlords. In our area, apartment blocks with this particular lease clause do seem to have better communal areas and an improved sense of community.
At Rolfe East we already deal with transactions across the full property spectrum from shared ownership to commercial business transactions, our applicant/ client base ranges from national house builders to assisted tenancies. We are encouraged by the government's willingness to listen, and are looking forward to seeing new initiatives and ideas work their way into policy.