While owner-occupation would still be the preferred choice of a majority, Mr Alexander said that private rented housing – covering all sectors of the market – should be made available for the growing numbers of people for whom home ownership was either not feasible or not desirable.
This article turned out to be remarkably prescient because in the last week in January, leading figures from the property industry will met at the British Property Federation’s (BPF) Annual Residential Conference in London to call for a radical shift to rental.
With repossessions almost doubling and tens of thousands facing negative equity, the BPF believes a professional, branded rental sector, where big firms provide long term homes to rent, could be the answer to Britain’s woes.
Current government policy is still focused heavily on ownership. However, many housing associations are facing real problems as shared ownership schemes are left vacant due to a lack of lending, with banks seeing such initiatives as ‘sub prime’ given the high proportion of repossessions.
At the conference, the BPF called for changes to stamp duty, local housing allowance (LHA), and the planning system which it believes will help the rental market and encourage private companies to invest in a professional rental sector like that of the USA and Europe.
Speakers included Sir Bob Kerslake, chief executive of the Homes and Communities Agency (speaking at 3pm), as well as Peter Marsh, chief executive of the Tenant Services Authority, Fionnuala Earley, chief economist of Nationwide Building Society and Richard Blakeway, housing adviser to the Mayor of London.
The BPF wants to see changes made to the charging of stamp when buying multiple properties so that it is charged per purchase and not on the collective amount, this would greatly reduce costs for large investors buying a portfolio of properties which they could then professionally manage.
It also wants rental developments to be specially recognised through the planning system, given the different financing model they use to properties built for owner-occupation.
Ian Fletcher, BPF residential director, said: "Over the past decade the private rented sector has proven itself invaluable to Government objectives. It has facilitated the rapid expansion of higher education, housed those unable to find any other home, and supported the UK's flexible labour market.
“The sector's ability to adapt has been a huge strength; one that is even more invaluable in current economic conditions, which the Government should be harnessing. We have had an excellent independent review of the sector. It is now time to act on it and start moving forward, so that the sector can drive up standards, add to supply, and ultimately achieve its full potential."
More information: www.bpf.org.uk