24/03/2015

By Thomas Villeneuve, CEO and Founder of flatsharing network Weroom


As it stands, there are 4.5 million people living in rented accommodation in the UK, with an additional 1.5 million expected next year. These figures should ring alarm bells for the current government not to mention the elected or indeed re-elected party following May 7th, because unfortunately, this figure is only going to increase.

In the budget last week, George Osborne outlined what seemed like promising news for the newest generation of property buyers, revealing measures to introduce new funding to counter the ever worsening housing crisis in the UK. But while Mr Osborne is perhaps doing what he thinks is best for Britain’s housing market, it seems that he’s once again quite unwittingly forgotten about ‘Generation Rent’.

The introduction of new build schemes – although great for the economy – dismisses the primary issue that inflicts most young professionals looking the buy their first home: the fact that house prices are still too expensive and on the rise. This is why so many young Brits have turned towards flatsharing as a more long term solution to actually buying a property, a mentality that has seemingly shifted over the past few years as a wealth of alternative services have appeared on the market.

In some recent research, we polled 1,000 people living in the UK to find that 55 per cent would be happy to never own a property if more affordable rent schemes were offered, which demonstrates the openness Brits now have to upend the notion that everyone must own a property. Unfortunately, no political party is doing anything significant enough to make this dream a reality, something that is holding back both renters and entrepreneurs within this industry. And on face value, this will continue to be the case until the government put forward a notion to introduce a dedicated renting minister.

How a renting minister would help flatsharing companies in the UK

Through our research, we found that out of all the potential policies presented by the competing parties in the UK, 50 per cent of Brits would most like to see the introduction of a renting minister. But of course, none of the above has even considered this as a policy and this is largely because they haven’t considered the benefit it could have to businesses in the housing sector.

A dedicated renting minister would not only help to make renting more affordable, but it would also have a significant impact on young companies operating within this space. Indeed, companies like Weroom would be given the help needed to expand its network of landlords and tenants, which would help to make flatsharing a more rewarding and transparent experience for all involved. Not only this, it would also ensure that renting would be a more effective and affordable long term solution to aid Britain’s housing crisis, giving property seekers more time to save money until such time that they choose to put down a deposit on a home.

In many ways, George Osborne’s new housing scheme has the capacity to work alongside a renting minister – rents can be controlled and renters can be offered the support needed to ensure they are able to save enough money to invest in a property. In turn, following the completion of the government’s proposed new housing project – which would likely take up to 10 years – an entire generation of people who will be ready to buy their own home, simultaneously giving a major boost to the British economy. In the meantime, young flatsharing companies and independent property owners would be given the help they need to thrive as businesses, welcoming a whole generation of people to flatshare and rent before investing in a property.

While this seems to be the obvious route for the government, it unfortunately remains true that nothing has been announced by the government to help Britain’s growing network of renters and flatsharers. Our solution is a dedicated renting minister, and until this happens, a full recovery within the housing sector is likely to be an unachievable task.