We all know there’s no place like home – and if that home is owned it’s even better. That’s the idea that we’ve grown up with, and the one that, sadly, is losing traction in a world full of economic problems of all shapes and sizes (although most of them seem to be fairly large, and that’s the big issue).
Europe vs The UK
In Europe, owning a house isn’t a big deal. It’s not even something that the majority of people do. Most rent. They rent, and they save for their retirement so that there won’t be any problems down the road.
Not so in the UK. Here we are taught from an early age that owning (sort of – until that mortgage is paid off don’t forget the bank actually owns the bricks and mortar you (possibly) live in) a property is the pinnacle of success. Pay a massive amount in mortgage pennies every month and you’ve really made something of your life. This idea is not fading away, even if the hopes and dreams of a generation that wanted to own a house but can’t, do.
Costings and Dodgy Banks
As with pretty much everything in this world, the reason young people in the UK cannot buy a house is the cost of the thing. Housing is becoming insanely expensive and although there was a blip in 2008, since then prices have been steadily rising – and they don’t look set to stop any time soon. 2008 saw a crash in the housing market which, for first time buyers, should have been a good thing (let’s not talk about the devastation it wreaked on second, third, fourth time buyers or the ones who had intended their homes to be their retirement). Only it wasn’t. Why? Because it was the banks that caused the problem in the first place, and, as a rather belated sorry for giving away money to people who patently wouldn’t be able to pay it back, they stopped giving away any money at all.
The mortgage market stagnated.
So that’s one thing. That’s that. Things are better now, although getting together a deposit and persuading a wary lender that you really can make the repayments are still tricky.
The Housing Market
And of course, there’s the issue of the rising house prices. Why is that happening? If it could stop, just for a while even, there would be enough time for millions of first time buyers to get on the housing ladder. It would solve a huge problem that is currently seeing men and women in their 30s or 40s still living at home. Some of them are married with children, and they are still having problems finding somewhere to live. Renting is so frowned upon here that you’re considered a ‘failure’ if you hit your 40s and have no mortgage under your belt.
And so, back to the point of house prices…
Build Cheaper Houses
It’s the houses that are doing it. Really. Houses being built today are just that little bit bigger than those that were built in the past. Compare a house from the 60s to a house built a year ago and even if they are both three-bed semis the size difference will be pretty noticeable. Because of that, because of the price of labour, the price of materials, the price of the land, it costs more to build. So it follows that it costs more to buy. Builders need to make a profit.
It should be an easy fix – build houses that are smaller. But they’ve tried that, and when that happened no one wanted them. Too small! Too cramped! We need more room for all our stuff! Those were the cries from the first time buyers. Well, that need for space has come full circle now; no one can afford what they wanted, and what they could afford got snapped years ago. And, because it was all built and bought years ago, the people within the smaller houses can’t move because they’ve lost too much money. If they could, perhaps the first time buyers would compromise and go for a smaller pad… but they’re not getting the chance to find out.
It seems like it is going to be a constant battle in the UK, for young people to get on the housing ladder. The government can throw as many initiatives as they like at it, but unless there really is more affordable housing it’s going to be that way for a while.