Note to politicians: Home ownership just isn't a priority for young people

What they want is to funnel less of their salary into the pockets of landlords

Philip Kleinfeld
Tuesday 07 April 2015 17:45 BST
(Getty Images)

It probably didn’t need another survey to confirm what most young people glancing down at their payslips already know, but today’s report by Halifax makes it that little bit clearer: with house prices rising and wages falling in real-terms, the idea of home ownership has become little more than a pipe dream for Generation Rent.

According to the new report, just 43 per cent of 20 to 45 year olds are putting aside money for a deposit - a fall of 6 per cent on the previous year. In London, where house prices rose by almost 20 per cent last year a striking 82 per cent of 20 to 45 year olds have given up altogether.

For the self-styled party of home-ownership, this is something of an embarrassment. In the last of his six key manifesto themed speeches, David Cameron - eager to improve his image - announced a new Starter Homes Scheme, promising to double to 200,000 the number of discounted properties available for first time buyers.

That may sound like a good thing. An inflated housing market is, after all, incredibly dangerous. But for huge numbers of people sleeping in sheds in back gardens, paying to live as de facto security guards, or waiting nervously for the next glass carbunkle to replace some of the only affordable housing still left, the possibility of owning one’s own property means very little. What most young people and families want is to not have over half of their already declining salaries funneled straight into the pockets of landlords. What they want is the right to stay in the houses and areas they know and love. Home ownership just isn’t a priority.

There are few people that understand this better than Jasmin Stone. Last year, she and 28 other young, single mums were evicted from the Focus E15 Foyer, a temporary mother and baby unit in Stratford. For Jasmin, the housing crisis is not, as she said, the one “usually covered in the newspapers...experienced by the middle classes, whose steady march from private renting to home ownership has been stopped in its tracks by the hugely inflated market”. It is, for those on low income, “much more virulent.”

If it weren’t for the huge numbers of MPs moonlighting as landlords the work of activists like Jasmin might have had more of an impact on the political class. Far from trying to improve the situation, the Coalition government’s strategy involved making it actively worse. Instead of capping rents they capped housing benefit. Instead of holding back the property market they inflated it.

Barring the possibility of 600,000 empty homes being given to those that could actually use them, the urgent need for many young people is affordable, long-term, secure public tenancies and a private sector that is properly regulated. The cult of homeownership may seem unshakeable, but if these things can be secured, being priced out of the market might not feel quite so bad.

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