Three ways to help control UK rents

To let signs A mini protest outside a local estate agents calling for a cap on rents last month made me think about how the government can help close the divide between home ownership and renting.

Although I sympathise with those who are struggling to get on to the property ladder, particularly in London, capping rents isn't the answer. I believe in free markets and for price to be driven by demand. That's not to say that rents in London aren't ridiculous, I have plenty of friends who are paying a monthly rent that is equivalent or not more than my mortgage.

Getting a deposit together is the hardest part of the property puzzle for most people rather than the actually mortgage repayment. If there was a cap on rents then yes, people may have more disposable income to save for a deposit but it's a simplistic, unworkable and frankly selfish solution; I think my rent is too high, and I don't want it to get any higher.

There are far better solutions, in fact I think there are three things the government should be doing to help perpetual renters and those struggling with the cost of rent.

The first is what it is already doing; more government schemes to help first-time buyers on to the market. We need more chances for young people to pick up a property without the need for a huge deposit.

The government is offering a guarantee under its new Help to Buy scheme for those with a 5% deposit (although the merits of this compared to the New Buy scheme where the home builder stumps up the guarantee could be debated but that's for another column).

The second way is to combat rising rents is to sort out the dire social housing situation. If there was more social housing with government-set rents then there would be less private landlords bumping up rents at a cost to the taxpayers. If more people who needed it could go into social housing there wouldn't be such competition for private rental properties which would help regulate the market and the cost.

The final way would be to tax the buy-to-letters. If it was less beneficial and was less of a tax break for people then buying a second home to rent out wouldn't be as popular and would mean more properties would remain on the market for first-time buyers.

The 'cap rent' brigade have targeted the right topic but in the wrong way and unfortunately it means they won't be taken seriously.
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