The British housing market has never been so newsworthy. Every other day, there is an article in the newspaper or online about impending house price drops, house price rises, building on green belt, mortgage rates up/down, first time buyer affordability and the woes of being a buy to let landlord, to mention but a few. As a nation, we have a strong national desire to be homeowners.
The English Housing Survey stated the proportion of owner occupied households increased steadily from 52% in the early 1980s to 2003 when it reached its peak of 71%. Since then, owner occupation gradually declined to 63% in 2014, yet in fact increased to 64% in 2017 and has stayed there since.
One of the main motives of home ownership is the prospective tax-free capital appreciation that can be obtained. It's no wonder the phrase ‘as safe as houses' is popular in the English language, as many homeowners use homeownership as a nest egg or even a pension pot, as savings rates are at extraordinarily low levels.
Yet even with the news that homeownership is on the rise, the biggest seismic shift to the Darlington property market is the growth of the rental market, which has more than doubled in the last 15/20 years. The rental market isn't the only part of the market that has grown – commercial properties have been getting more popular in recent years with more investors and business owners contacting commercial property valuation companies and purchasing properties. However, its growth hasn't been as rapid as the rental properties have.
So how can the social housing sector (Council Housing) remain roughly at the same level since the millennium, homeownership slightly grow, yet the private rental sector be so huge? Well it comes down to the fact that many more homes have been built in Darlington in the last 15/20 years, and a lot of them have been bought for buy to let, or Darlington homeowners with second hand starter homes have also sold them to buy to let landlords and they have bought larger brand new homes.
Yet the question we wanted to ask is … are we building the right sort of homes, especially when it comes to the number of bedrooms? Whilst the data doesn't exist for Darlington, the country's stats are available and it makes fascinating reading…
Looking at the graph in 2008, 59% of new homes built were one and two beds, yet last year that had dropped to 35%.
The Housing Minster said recently he was concerned that new homebuilders were building the wrong types of homes in the wrong places at the wrong prices. Many (not all) tenants are tenants because they can't afford the deposit and as there is a direct coloration between the rent's landlords charge and tenant's earnings (i.e. as earnings go up, rents go up and vice versa), and earnings for the last seven years have been subdued, the property tenants have been able to afford in Darlington are the smaller one and two bed properties. Yet a lot of these tenants are now having families (with the need for larger property with three, even four bedrooms).
Looking at the stats for Darlington, it can be seen the vast majority of homeowners live in the larger properties with more bedrooms, whilst private rental tenants are in the smaller properties (with less bedrooms).
Our concern is – will young families and professionals be able to afford to live and work in Darlington, especially as the local authorities are unable to build council housing (aka Social Housing)?
One symptom of all these issues mentioned above is the massive growth in multi-family households (i.e. households containing two or more families), which have increased by 42% in under a decade. Now of course many will be because of older couples moving in with their adult children yet many are unrelated families sharing a house, something that simply shouldn't be happening in 2019.
If we don't increase the supply of the ‘right' sort of homes, what will their living conditions be like?
Whilst we are still a country of homeowners and even though there has been a slight growth in numbers, the long term trend is downwards if we don't build enough of the ‘right' new homes, in the ‘right' location and the ‘right' price, Darlington people will continue to increasingly rent … which is only good news for Darlington buy to let landlords.