A decent article from the NLA defending landlords
As a landlord, I found your article frustrating (Buy-to-let tax break plan attacked as further blow to first-time buyers, 15 March). It's lazy for campaigners to think the only reason that "thousands of first-time buyers will be priced out of the housing market" is because ordinary people are investing in property for renting.
Landlords are not to blame. Reading the article reminded me of just how undervalued landlords, and the homes they provide, are in Britain – despite how vital they are to communities up and down the land.
The article states that, over the last six years, "647,300 homes have been bought up by buy-to-let investment when otherwise they might have become available to other buyers". It fails to mention that the average deposit remains above £50,000, which is, by far, the largest barrier to those wanting to buy their first home. It also fails to report that those homes bought by buy-to-let investors are not left idle; they equate to an average of 108,000 new homes for people who see renting as a better option.
There are good reasons why more and more people are choosing to rent rather than buy. The last decade has seen 1 million more renters who like the choice, the ease and the flexibility which renting brings. Like most things, if you asked people individually they would probably say renting was the perfect option for them at a number of points in their life. Yet culturally we are still wedded to the idea that you are a failure unless you own your home.
What about those 816,000 households on housing benefit and who rent in the private-rented sector? What about the students who find halls of residence too expensive and want the independence of a proper home? What about those just starting out on their careers, or moving to a new part of the country for their job? A constant focus on owner-occupation does not speak to these groups or their needs.
The 20,000 landlords that I represent at the National Landlords Association are providing real social benefits in their housing provision for other people. This is what buy-to-let is: ordinary people investing in homes for other people. While nobody is disputing the fact that we are not doing this for free and do look to make a profit, there is still something decent about investing in bricks and mortar that someone else will enjoy. It is a shame that landlords and their homes are too often treated as the whipping boy of the housing market.
I am not trying to paint an overly rosy picture. We do need to address the number of empty properties in the sector, usually situated in areas of already low demand. We also need to deal with the small number of people who come out of the sector dissatisfied with their experience, both as landlords and tenants.
But ultimately, landlords are not taking homes away from the country – they are providing them for the country. I am extremely proud to be a landlord and I like to think that my tenants are glad that I am one too.