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Buy-to-Let Watch: Scapegoating landlords is getting us nowhere

Those who should be the movers and shakers in the housing market are instead just spending all their time talking around the issues

Last month Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first Spring Statement. With the official Budget now held in the autumn, this event was unlikely to feature many bells and whistles.

Housing was given a couple of mentions but there was little in the way of policy change.

Think back to this time last year when the government had just released its long-awaited housing white paper. With everyone accepting that the UK was in the middle of a housing crisis, this was a chance for secretary of state for housing, communities and local government Sajid Javid and his team to tell us how they planned to fix it. But it proved underwhelming, although it had some interesting proposals, particularly in terms of planning, and recognised the need for healthy rental and sales markets.

Now recall the prime minister’s speech at the Tories’ party conference. Theresa May focused heavily on housing – again promising to relax planning rules, get councils building and boost incentives to smaller developers. Last month, when May gave a speech on making housing fairer, we heard this again.

We have received the same messages repeatedly, yet seen little evidence of anything concrete being done.

Amid all this, landlords continue to pick up the slack – despite facing countless challenges thanks to regulatory changes. Indeed, according to the latest English Housing Survey there has been a huge rise in the number of people below the age of 44 entering the PRS.

Landlords are providing necessary accommodation for people affected by tightened mortgage criteria, lack of building thanks to land banking and planning restrictions, and the inability of developers to meet demand.

There are multiple consultations under way relating to housing. New decisions deserve attention but something needs to be done now.

We all know the problems are the result of far more than landlords snapping up properties. It is just easier to make BTL a scapegoat than to address the issues.

The ideas for fixing this market – or at least taking steps towards doing so – are out there now. A little less conversation, a little more action, please.

Ying Tan is managing director of the Buy to Let Club

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