Buy to let could be the cure not the cause of our ills

Monday, January 09, 2012 by Ed Mead

Ed Hammond of the FT writing in Saturday’s Weekend section mentioned in passing that buy to let “speculators” were partly to blame for the housing crash we saw in 2008.

I would beg to differ. The issues raised by rising prices may or may not have anything to do with buy to let investors replacing first time buyers, or not enough new properties being built, or our country being popular and thus populated and I think it would be churlish to examine the reasons for the credit crunch and lay any blame at such investors door when we know it was reckless lending in the USA that ultimately the downward spiral.

It seems odd to me that buy to let appears in some climes has come to be seen as a dirty word when it could be that this is a silver lining in an otherwise very dark cloud.

Odd though it seems a corollary of the current crunch (and rest assured, it’s more difficult to get a mortgage now than it was three years ago) is that it’s easier to get a buy to let mortgage than a standard residential one.

What this country needs is a strong private rented sector that not only teaches people that renting is a viable and valuable option, but also one that weans the public off the warped sense of entitlement to property ownership as if it’s a be all and end all.

To cast buy to let investors as villains or having been in any way the root cause of wider property and credit ills seems unhelpful at best, especially at a time when this Government should be actively looking at tax breaks and help for a sector that could yet form the basis of the next generation of housing.