Talking point: Reform is needed to make housing affordable
I went to my first ever house viewing recently. It all felt very adult to be looking around a flat that could well become the biggest purchase I’ll ever make in my life.
At 28, I’m at the point where things start to get a bit real. Most of my friends have settled into their career paths, about half are married and a few even have children. But only a handful are homeowners.
For many of us who came of age around the time of the financial crisis, the dream of buying a home has had to remain just that, a dream.
The average salary of 22-29-year-olds in the UK is £23,662. The average house price in Scotland is nearly seven times that, while saving for a deposit has been made almost impossible by sky-high rents (a reminder here that not every person can benefit from living with their parents rent-free while they save).
Indeed, the only reason I’m fortunate enough now to be on the market is because I inherited a third of my mum’s house after her death.
I’ve been in full-time employment for over six years and have never missed a rent payment or bill – but I’d still struggle to meet the demands of mortgage providers without the lump sum from that sale.
It shouldn’t take a parental death for people to be able to afford somewhere to live.
The housing market is broken. Even so-called affordable homes remain out of reach for many and while schemes like the First Home Fund are welcome, they are useless for people unable to save the five per cent deposit requirement.
Two friends have totally given up on ever owning a house because they have so little left after their £1,000 a month rent. Unlike me, they won’t have an inheritance to help out eventually either, since their parents live in rented homes too.
Another friend, a doctor, is struggling to get a mortgage agreement because his partner, who currently pays half the rent, is a student.
A single friend has put her home ownership aspirations on hold because as a sole applicant her choices are limited compared to couples. What she could get is far from what she’d need to be able to buy even a modest place.
And we’re the lucky ones. Plenty of others won’t have even bothered to look up their options, because they know it would be futile.
Those in insecure work or who have recently lost their jobs in the pandemic; those whose low pay means they are living hand to mouth each month; those who are unable to earn a living because of a disability or health problem. These are all people who deserve a secure and stable home, that shouldn’t have to be subject to the whims of private landlords.
And worse still, generation rent is frequently paying more each month than a mortgage would cost. Since I started work, I’ve paid £55,000 in rent. I could have been using that money to pay off my own mortgage. Instead I’ve been paying off someone else’s.
This year, that will change. But for an increasing number of people, that won’t ever be an option unless there is a fundamental shift in how we get people on to the property ladder.