I’m barely numerate. I am starting to believe that economics isn’t really a science, but voodoo. Despite – or because - of this mindset of mine, I soon realised that the last housing bubble would end disastrously.
No matter where I looked, all I could see were masses of the newbuild developments I called dovecots. I realised the madness of over-supply was linked to the easy loans doled out to those desperate for pensions or the investments apparently required to pay for their children’s future home and education. I take not joy in being right, but yes, it ended badly, I think you’ll agree.
Have we forgotten the bad old days of queues outside building societies, of people stockpiling debt, even borrowing from their own impoverished families, before being doomed to bankruptcy and ruin. I went through this myself, with a rentier who had obtained 14 buy-to-let mortgages, and who ultimately lost it all.
Do we want the madness to return? For tenants to face eviction because their buy-to-let landlord is insolvent,?
But like a zombie lurching towards another victim, demanding fresh brains for tea, that hideous ‘buy-to-let’ is back. This is terrible, terrible news. No – seriously. It’s really bad. ‘Why’s that?’ you ask. Surely it’s nice, people, buying houses for poor, homeless, desperate people to live. Owners will nurture tenants. They will house them in luxury, they will be sympathetic, responsive, helpful, and responsible.
You see, that’s the problem. Sometimes it’s like that – just a simple transaction, where people pay rent, and rentiers keep the profit but fix and maintain the place. Idealistically, I’d say it’s usually like that. But sometimes… it isn’t.
Few rentiers are trained, so they are often unaware of the laws regulating their behaviour. They plead innocent when told they must organise annual gas safety checks. They are even quite put out that they must observe legal methods of giving notice. The learned Ben Reeves-Lewis frequently encounters owners who are astonished when informed that they can’t do exactly what they like. They say ‘you’ll be laughed out of court,’ when faced with fines for what is, in effect, eviction by harassment.
In London, with the assistance of the universally derided Tory ‘Help To Buy’ scheme, the market for homes is febrile once more and already lurching towards the precipice. Elsewhere, in the North, Scotland etc, once more, guileless investors will snap up newbuilds, which will of course plummet in value, with sad, life-destroying inevitability. People will borrow from friends and families, ruining everybody’s credit, prospects and their lives.
There aren’t enough homes in the private sector, but what we do not need is another episode of rickety, tiny, dovecots – euroboxes or yuppiedromes, snapped up and rented out by resentful but desperate amateur rentiers. We need family homes, well built places for single people to live in, space for multi-generational and blended families to spread out and live in harmony, with space for cupboards and facilities to dry laundry.
So don’t, please don’t re-inflate that poisonous bubble. It will splatter misery everywhere.