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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
29 March 2024
Gies a leg up: Getting on the housing ladder is an increasingly difficult task


Gies a leg up: Getting on the housing ladder is an increasingly difficult task

I’ve been spending more time with my gran in the last few weeks, and it dawned on me that I didn’t know much about her and my grandpa’s life when they were in their twenties. 

Last weekend we sat for hours, and she told my partner and me in great length what their life was like in the late 1950s and early sixties.

I was saddened to hear she didn’t grow up with much opportunity. The best example of this is that, despite being studious, she was forced to leave school at 14 to look after her two younger brothers while her single-parent mother worked three jobs. It was only in her late twenties, after she had got married and had three children that she would go to night school and ultimately become a teacher. 

But what struck me was when she told me that they bought their first house during that period when there was just a labouring and part-time telephonist wage coming in each month.

Naively, I asked how she’d managed that. Quite easily it turns out – the three-bed home in the south side of Glasgow, in which my grandparents brought up my mum, auntie and uncle, cost them the equivalent of two and a half years’ wages. 

In the car journey back to Edinburgh, my partner and I discussed when we thought we’d buy a home, and like the many conversations we have had before on the matter, we arrived at the conclusion it won’t be anytime soon if we want to live in Edinburgh or Glasgow. 

Of course, it would take far less time to save and move somewhere further outside of Edinburgh, like Fife, but we would lose the community we have built up in the seven years we have been in Edinburgh, and we would have no family nearby. And even if we did do this, I find myself asking when there would be money to get married and have kids. 

According to the Bank of Scotland, in 2022 the number of first-time buyers fell by 11 per cent. And then between January and August 2023 it fell by a further 14 per cent, while the average price of a first home clocked in at just under £190,000.

If you look over the last few decades, it’s clear it has gradually become harder to buy a home. The average deposit needed for first-time buyers in Scotland sits at a whopping £41,442 and the average property value for first-time buyers is now around five times the median full-time Scottish salary for 2022, which was £33,332. 

According to data from the UK House Price Index, the average cost of a home in Scotland was £35,684 in the 1990s, while the average salary in 1997 was £15,667. This means the average cost to buy then was just over two times the median salary. 

I’m so thankful that my partner and I had better opportunities than my grandparents, but it seems obvious to me we will own later, won’t get married until later, and we’ll have children later, or even not at all.

Of the people I know that are my age and have bought homes in Edinburgh or in Glasgow, every one of them have only been able to do it with financial help from parents or through inheritance.   

It leaves me to wonder if we going to be the generation that will always be going to mum and dad for handouts. And if so, I wonder how many parents can afford to give their children a leg up onto the housing ladder.

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