I watched yesterday’s Panorama programme about the housing crisis in this country.
The truth is that it is more of a crisis in some parts of the country than in others. Close to where I live now you can find a 3 bedroom terrace house in the centre of a village and within two minutes of a beach for less than £40,000. Renting is also still an affordable option and for most young people, although renting is still more expensive they don’t have to rent for long if they want to get on the ‘property ladder’.
The real problem is ‘down south’ and especially in London. Twenty five years ago my wife and I, in our mid-twenties, bought our first home; a one bed flat in south London for just under £70,000. It meant that with mortgage interest rates over 16% in an economy sliding into recession we lived life on the edge as the risk of losing one or both of our jobs was very real. As things turned out the recession was short-lived and later in the year interest rates began to steadily come down. We were lucky in the long run.
Today’s twenty-somethings in London simply don’t have the choice we had all those years ago. Back then, renting was always going to be a temporary exercise before we bought. Today they either have to live with their parents and try to save to buy a place or rent long term. Since the demise of council house provision, no one wants to rent long term in London and it was the sell-off of council houses that started the current housing crisis.
When the Thatcher government decided to sell-off council houses it was very unfair in the first place. Taxpayers paid to have them built but if you were lucky enough to live in one you got to buy it at a huge discount. There is very little social housing being built now even though it is very clear with the benefit of hindsight to see that the hope the Thatcher government had that the private sector would come to the rescues just didn’t happen. And this council house sell-off is still happening – last year 11,000 council houses were sold while only 1,180 were built.
So, renting a council house is not really an option anymore for young adults in London. If I was still down there and in my twenties, the only option open to me would be to live outside London and if I found, work that village with the three bedroom house by the sea would be where I would be heading!