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Watch out for the renters' backlash

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

If you were just going off what the media had been reporting, and the questions thrown at Rishi Sunak in PMQs, you’d almost be fooled into thinking everyone in this country was a homeowner. Mortgage rates are the cause of a lot of political heat at the moment, but for the 20% of the UK population that rely on the private rental sector for housing, they are still a distant dream.

There is a common misconception that the rental crisis is a London-specific issue, but it has truly gone UK wide. Average private rents across Britain have sored to record highs, with rental prices up 20% in cities like Manchester and Cardiff, 18% in Edinburgh, and over 16% in London compared to just a year ago. In February of this year, over a third of renters were spending over 50% of their wages on rent – a figure that has likely gone up in the past six months. 

Yet, despite the loud cries from the media about what politicians are going to do to protect homeowners, there is once again a notable silence when it comes to renters. The Tory voting coalition is, after all, built on home ownership, and the rapidly unfolding rental crisis is seen as a young person’s issue, with 46% of under-35s in England renting from private landlords. 

What seems to be missing in the extensive coverage we have seen of rapidly increasing mortgage rates, is how this is going to have a huge and detrimental impact on renters. If rental prices are already up a staggering 20% across the country before the full impacts of mortgage rate rises kick in, you can only dread to think what the next rental increase is going to be. You can bet that landlords will be turning to hard-pressed renters to cover their increasing mortgage and then some, just in case.

With young people in this country feeling that they have, once again, been passed over in favour of pensioners, it is no wonder that the Tories are heading for extinction with voters under the age of 50. They might be missing a trick though; keeping the youth on side has been shown to bring valuable electoral benefits in this week’s US midterm elections. Biden’s student debt forgiveness and other ambitious program aimed at helping young people appear to have paid dividends for the Democrats, with a ‘youthquake’ of under-30 voters delivering key wins for the party.

According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, human beings’ have five physiological levels of needs to be satisfied. Right at the top of the list is shelter. If the Tories are failing to address the rental crisis for 20% of the electorate, it’s unlikely they’ll be voting Conservative any time soon.


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