27 Apr 2015

Meet the party winning young renters…the warehouse party

Politicians have hijacked warehouses this election but do young adults calling for better housing policies want to vote for them?

First Nick Clegg and David Cameron.

Then the Greens.

Until warehouses were appropriated by political parties this election the old factories of metropolitan cities had increasingly turned into arts spaces and makeshift affordable accommodation for young relatively underpaid creatives of the new digital economy.

With the election weeks away only one party appears to have a cross section of support – the warehouse party:

The warehouse scene is a part of British cities notable in London, Manchester and Leeds but warehouses are no longer just the preserve of music promoters and artists.

Thriving warehouses attracted the attention of urban innovators and a following of imitators but not all residents opted for warehouse life out of preference.

The occupation of warehouses by those on the margins of the rental market have led renters to replace ravers. When Thomas d’Orleans moved to London from Scotland for work, the Peanut Factory warehouse in Hackney Wick was the first place that provided him a place to live even though he initially he hated the idea.

He now loves it but for Thomas and thousands of others who have experienced difficulty trying to find somewhere affordable to rent housing is a big issue this election – and the main parties appear to know it:

Thomas and Ollie Launay’s concerns are commonly expressed in the capital. The cost of private rent is has become a big issue in London and the south east.

Despite private rents being a London-centric issue the shortage of housing, the rate of property price increases and the flaws in the market have made housing a national crisis.

All of the major parties have pledged to build more homes with differing priorities. Jon Snow explains a few of them:

The Conservatives have made the Thatcherite policy of home ownership a centrepiece of their offer to the electorate with younger first time buyers in mind. A group Labour have now appealed to with their pledge to abolish stamp duty for first time buyers on properties under £300,000.

Government figures released this year showed that the number of people aged 25 to 34 buying homes with a mortgage fell from 55.6 per cent to 33.7 per cent in the past decade.

In the same time the number of 25 to 34-year-olds privately renting has more than doubled in a decade, rising from 21 per cent to 48 per cent.

Housing promises

Labour is attempting to appeal to renters by promising three-year secure tenancies to give tenants more rights, caps on rent increases and bans on letting agent fees – a grouping of policies described as a return to the 1980s.

The Liberal Democrats have also identified renters finding it difficult to even leave home. The junior coalition partner have pledged to provide deposit loans and schemes that allow renters to buy shares of their homes through rents.

Ukip’s housing policies are built around the protection of the greenbelt and prioritising British nationals for social housing although without a notable pledge to expand a stock being decreased by right to buy policies that already has a waiting list of over 1.4 million people.

In contrast the Green Party’s housing pledge is built on the premise that they will build 500,000 social homes for rent and remove the cap that prevents local authorities from building. Last year local councils built 840 homes for a waiting list of a million. In past interviews the party had struggled to say how they would pay for this.

With all this in mind – there is a broad range of choice on offer (in theory) although the trend in housing has only gone one way since the 1980s. Furthermore the housing policies of the major parties that are largely in favour of home ownership do not appear to reverse this pattern as the graph on Paul Mason’s report explains:

Considering the range of policies available on housing the main challenge to the parties ahead of the election may be capturing the attention of the audience their policies hope to attract.

30-year-old entrepreneur, Monty Bhurjee explains why he is yet to be convinced:

The shortage of homes may be a problem this election but there is no shortage of policies promising to solve it but unless the parties can capture the attention of generation rent the most popular party in town will continue to be the warehouse party.