Clegg / Farage debates and Maria Miller’s expenses may have dominated headlines
over the past week, a number of interventions on the issue of housing have
provided evidence of just how emotive the issue has become as well. Come the
General Election it may even be more important than the long-distant memory of
two men on a stage.
Minister, Kris Hopkins, received a heated reaction to his Newsnight interview
where he appeared to suggest that the Government’s “Help to Buy” scheme was not
fuelling demand in the sector. Friday’s front page of The Independent then carried the story that Vince Cable has
waded into the debate saying house prices are at pre-crash levels and
unaffordable for people on middle incomes. There was also news that Labour
would reverse some of the most controversial parts of the Coalition’s planning
would doubt that the politics of house prices has intensified, identifying
quite what electoral effect it will have in 2015 requires more investigation.
thing to note is that Britons remain attached to buying property: 81%
would prefer to own their home than rent it. New ComRes polling for Generation Rent
also shows that two thirds of those living in the private rented sector (67%)
are currently doing so not because they actively enjoy the flexibility or
living with friends, but because they simply cannot afford to buy.
of Private Renters
problems with affordability, Help to Buy does not appear to have made those
still renting from private landlords any
more partial towards the Coalition parties. In 2010, they were split three ways
between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Since then
however, this appears to have been a demographic group that Labour has very
successfully won over. As can be seen below, 46% of private renters now say
that they would vote for Ed Miliband’s party, compared to 23% who would vote
Tory and 12% Lib Dem.
Base: All GB adults living in private rented housing
scale of support for Labour, the political make-up of private renters makes
them an electorally salient group for several reasons. First, 35% say that they
tend to change who they vote for between elections, suggesting a propensity to
fall into the “swing voter” category. This may be due to their tending to be
towards the younger end of the age spectrum, where identification with
individual political parties is lower than among older people.
This is borne
out in their reported behaviour too. One in ten private renters who voted
Conservative in 2010 (10%) would now vote Labour – more than twice the
proportion of 2010 Conservatives nationally (where the average from the past
three months is 4%). It
has been argued here before that swing voters between Conservative and
Labour will be vitally important to next election as their votes are worth
“double”. Given the trouble both sides have had with winning the other’s
voters, private renters may therefore prove a fruitful source of this for
Labour. The Conservatives on the other hand will want to stem the flow as there
is still much to play for. One in five private renters who are likely to vote
(20%), say that say that do not know yet who they would vote for at the next
election (compared to 14% of likely voters generally), suggesting there are
still plenty of votes to be won.
renters are unevenly distributed. It is well known that while Labour have
successfully built on its dominance in the North, it is having mixed success in
the Southern areas it will need to win if it is gain an overall majority in
2015. The fact that one in six (16%) people living in the South East (not
including London) live in private rented housing therefore only increases their
salience as a group.
of House Prices
Of course one
of the key problems with housing as an issue, which makes it so toxic, is that
it pits two sections of the population against each other on diametrically
opposing sides: homeowners, who have an interest in seeing prices rise, and
everyone else, whose desire to buy means they have an interest in seeing prices
come down. While homeowners are the majority group, it is perhaps easy to see
why there is a political will to see house prices keep rising.
All GB adults (n=2,039). Homeowners (n=1,250), Renters (n=766).
But there are
some signs that this may start to be changing. A recent ComRes poll for ITV
News showed that half of Britons now say that they cannot afford to buy a
property in their local area. Perhaps unsurprisingly, four in five renters
(79%) fall into this category, but more interestingly, so do a third (35%) of
homeowners. With house prices rising at a much faster rate than wages, many
homeowners may have moved into an area only to see house prices around them
rocket. While this does see the price of their own home go up, there is a
danger that many feel priced out of their own area, and either have to make do
with what they have or move out completely. With current trends set to
continue, there may well be potential for swinging homeowners behind house
building as a way of avoiding this and expanding the choices available to them.
Three quarters of Londoners (73%) are already negative towards rising prices, saying
that house prices rising there faster than anywhere else is a bad thing.
The cost of
buying a property is not the only concern for many homes: 39% of private
renters have cut back on heating due to the cost of their rent, while a third
(33%) have cut back on food for the same reason and a third say that their home
suffers from unacceptable levels of dampness. With the existence of such poor
conditions so widespread, Buy-to-Let landlords will either have to get their
act together or likely face growing demands for political action.
Parliament Voting Intention (changes since March 2014):
What will GE2015 mean for you and your organisation?
ComRes Future MPs provides insight into the opinions ofthe likely House
of Commons after the next General Election by surveying sitting MPs
likely to keep their seats and the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates
most likely to win. Contact Katharine Peacock for more information about ComRes Future MPs:
ComRes, Four Millbank, London, SW1P 3JA ComRes
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