If you missed it you can see it here Britain’s Bad Housing on Channel 4’s Dispatches programme last night painted a rather squalid picture of the state of the country’s housing market. Andrew Gilligan. Yes him! presented a picture of a market that was scrabbling around to wring the last few drops of profit out of the housing boom before it petered out.
“Buy-to-Leave” has become a metaphor for all that it is bad about the housing market at the moment. Greedy speculators apparently buying properties and leaving them empty to sell at a moment of their choosing. It has always seemed a little exaggerated to me. Surely a really greedy speculator would want the rental income as well?
Gilligan laid the blame not on the speculators but the builders. In Salford Quays a notorious “buy to leave” blackspot , flats were empty because too many high value flats had been built. The builders’ intention was to sell to the speculator market not to consider the housing needs of the area. Consequently the new flats were too small and too expensive for Salford’s population. Naive speculators who hadn’t researched the local rental market or had hoped to sell them on quickly found that they had been sold a pup. This sounds a more plausible explanation than deliberately leaving them empty. Whatever the reasons there can be little doubt that Gilligan is right, properties are being left empty because they are being built as tradable commodities and not liveable homes. No doubt many “buy-to –leave” landlords are sitting tight waiting for an upturn in the market to give them a painless way out. Unfortunately for them all the signs are the market is about to head in the opposite direction.