Julian Knight: Housing wealth that lifted parents is holding their children back
Saturday 13 April 2013
Whatever you might think of Margaret Thatcher, one thing is for sure: the explosion in home ownership that took place in her time in office increased the wealth of Britain's working class to a greater extent than almost any other move in our country's economic history.
It is debatable how much of this she could claim credit for, as in many countries around the globe deregulation and the availability of loose money led to a property market boom. What's more, although council house sales were an important contributor, in many parts of the country these properties still exist – in terms of the prices they fetch – in a level just below the "normal" property market.
Sadly, though, the property boom that raised the wealth of so many working people was a once-in-a-lifetime event – it was more akin to the land grab that followed Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries than the great expansion of share ownership in the US in the early 20th century.
Now, 30 years on, levels of home ownership are falling and it is estimated that in London by 2020 renters will out-number owner-occupiers. We aren't so much going back to the 1970s as to the 1950s and the era of the landlady and adults living in permanent digs.
The very property wealth that raised up parents is now keeping down many of the children. Of course, some are calling on the Bank of Mum and Dad or even the Bank of Gran and Granddad to get on the ladder, but intergenerational wealth transfer is a bit of a last resort.
For others, there is the reality of high prices and tight lending criteria. And this is a nationwide phenomenon that doesn't just apply to the South-east. Although prices are lower away from the capital, so are wages and as a result property ownership is passing by many people in their twenties and thirties.
Baroness Thatcher's death is a time to look back and reflect. Will we ever see the likes of the ownership boom which coincided with her time in office? In my lifetime I doubt it, despite some interesting policies to revive the first-home market. For many the home-ownership dream is being buried today.
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