Recent news has told us that half of those aged 20 to 24 still live with their parents, unable to raise the funds to get on the housing ladder or even to rent. In recent weeks it has also been reported that the residential letting market in the UK is now worth £32billion and that landlords are “earning” vast annual sums from private rentals. These are two sides of the same coin.
Those who do manage to scrape rent together are increasingly forced to stay forever renting because they simply cannot afford to save for a deposit, pinched as they are between falling wages and rising prices – and a great many people can no longer earn enough money to pay rent without claiming government assistance through benefits. Thus, in this age of cuts and austerity, a large proportion of the rental market quietly transfers public money into private pockets. This is a direct result of the selling-off of our nation’s social housing stock over the last three decades, much of which fell into the hands of ‘housing associations’ and other private landlords. Vast sums of public money are now poured into these private coffers, where once it fed back to our councils and could be used to fund local public services.
The fortunes to be made from renting have driven-up demand for properties and this has, in turn, contributed to the spiralling prices now seen across our out-of-control housing market. Those of us fortunate enough to already own our own homes may be among the last generation to do so, our children and grandchildren only dreaming of affording a deposit, destined never to join the property-owning classes except perhaps by inheriting a house – and nobody wants to be on that waiting list.
The aspirational dream of the Thatcher era has ended in homelessness, squats and families living in B&Bs. Never mind talk of building affordable housing – that just gets snapped up by those running the rapacious rental market, driving up average house prices even further – what we need is for the government to invest in a massive program of building new social housing: the economy of our country and the happiness, security and stability of its citizens are at stake.