Private rental sector is flourishing

The recent quarterly figures from the Association of Residential Letting Agents confirm what we have been saying for some time – that the private rented sector is not just holding up in the current economic environment, but flourishing.

Rental returns for landlords are rising throughout most of the country as tenant demand increases, while void periods are shortening and tenancies lengthening.

But while this is great news for landlords and will no doubt generate a lot of media coverage, what most of this coverage continually misses is the social role the private rented sector performs in the UK.

Buy-to-let landlords are consistently accused of preventing first-time buyers from stepping onto the property ladder, but whilst affordability for first-time buyers has clearly been a factor, the growth of the PRS has been driven to a greater extent by the decline of social housing. Right-to-buy and under-investment in social housing has taken its toll and the buy-to-let landlord has been there to meet the demand that local authorities and housing associations could not accommodate.

At a time when the appetite for house purchase is low, the PRS is providing comfortable and affordable accommodation to millions of people and is taking the strain for an overburdened social housing sector.

Not only does the sector do a great job at housing those transient communities – immigrants, students and young professionals – it is also providing homes for everyday families and people that simply do not want to purchase in the current economic environment.

In addition, during the downturn of the early 1990s we witnessed mass possessions because there was little alternative to house purchase and young buyers had borrowed above their means. Today’s modern and vibrant private rented sector provides people with a viable alternative to owner occupation and buy-to-let provides housing for young people who would otherwise have little choice but to buy and be financially stretched.