The end of landlords: the surprisingly simple solution to the UK housing crisis

Mass-scale housebuilding isn’t necessary – there is already enough housing stock. But we need to learn the wisdom of the last century when it comes to landlordism.

Speaking against his own government’s renters reform bill last autumn, the Tory grandee Sir Edward Leigh told MPs: “I was able to buy my first house – although it was a bit of a struggle – for £25,000. The opportunities for young people are so difficult now”. Younger people are “overwhelmingly reliant on the rental sector”, Leigh conceded, but the problem as he saw it was one of supply: “We have to build many more houses, and we have to free up the rented sector.”

What never seems to occur to Leigh, his parliamentary colleagues, or indeed his entire generation, is to look seriously at what has changed between their time and ours. The forthcoming general election is once again likely to be dominated by claims about a housing shortage and a dire need to build more homes. Housebuilding is an article of faith across the political spectrum.

The evidence, however, does not support this thinking. Quite the reverse. Over the last 25 years, there has not just been a constant surplus of homes per household, but the ratio has been modestly growing while our living situations have been getting so much worse. In London, as the Conservative Home blog notes, there is a terrible housing crisis “even though its population is roughly the same as it was 70 years ago”, when the city was still extensively bomb-damaged by the second world war.

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