“I want a mortgage and I want it now!”

by JamesBooker on December 5, 2014

We are in the midst of a crisis – a housing crisis.

This is not new news. I may even be stating the obvious.

I am a married woman in my mid-40s – when I split from my first husband I was fortunate enough to be housed in a housing association property which offered me, my son and daughter a bedroom each. For a while it was fine, I remarried and we now have two incomes. We have some savings – what would constitute a very healthy deposit – but we are stuck.

We now have two late-teenaged children, we still need three bedrooms and we cannot afford to buy a suitable home in our area. We could just about manage a flat – with a shoebox for a third bedroom, but even that would stretch our finances to a point I wouldn’t wish to contemplate.

So, even though we are out of danger financially – we are stuck in social housing and possibly taking a home away from a family in real trouble.

Believe me, this blog is not because I am feeling particularly altruistic – frankly, I am writing it because I am fed up with my noisy neighbours who have four young, heavy-footed children, two barky dogs and, it seems, friends with the boomingest voices ever.

And yet, as I trawl through the local offerings on Rightmove – looking at properties feasibly within our price range which would, just about, meet our needs – I know that we would probably just be jumping out of the proverbial frying pan and into a whole heap of fire.

Our budget would not move us into a more salubrious area – it might even mean, in order to get a foot on the property ladder, we would have to go down a rung or two!

Yes, we are in a crisis. We are a nation of wannabe homeowners where ordinary people, on average incomes, can no longer afford to buy suitable housing.

Luckily for my family our building is of reasonable quality and our housing association is very good – we have no landlord/tenant dispute, but I know plenty of other renters whose situation is not so rosy. Private landlords and investors have jumped on the back of the housing crisis and bought up lots of buy-to-rent property. If the people cannot afford to buy, we will let them rent – is the notion, but this has just perpetuated the lack of housing stock for owner/residents.

And the prices have just gone up and up, while quality appears to have gone down.

So, what are the solutions? Well the media has some ideas

In July this year, the BBC put forward five “controversial” means to solve the current predicament.

  1. Move elderly people into smaller properties – not for the first time it has been highlighted that there are many older people living alone in multi-bedroomed homes, and while you cannot force someone out of their own property, it has been suggested that the government could offer tax breaks to older people who move into special retirement properties. This could, potentially, free up a large number of family homes and help the market regain some affordability.
  2. Build new properties on green belt land – while the BBC specifically discussed the London green belt, these nation-wide areas have long been seen as important places where new build housing, and urbanisation in general, should be kept to a minimum. Suggesting that the housing crisis can be curtailed by building in these hallowed areas has got lots of people very hot under their large-gardened collars.
  3. Round up the owners of empty properties and make them pay – last summer there were around 80,000 empty properties in London alone. While the councils have been given powers to levy 50% more council tax on owners who leave their property empty for more than two years, the BBC said that by July 2014 only 4,399 property owners in the capital had been subjected to the Empty Homes Premium tax.
  4. Make use of brownfield sites – possibly the least controversial of fixes, building homes on sites which had previously been used for commercial or industrial purposes is, however, problematic because such sites often require decontamination and the granting of planning permission can be a drawn-out process. Currently, the rules around change of use for commercial land can mean building new homes is vetoed. MPs have made calls for changes to planning laws so that, in the most needy areas, certain plots of land could be used for affordable housing.
  5. Be more European about it – yes, you heard me, various commentators suggest the British fixation with property ownership has passed its sell-by date and we should all just get more comfortable with the notion of renting. A census taken in Germany in 2011 revealed that in Berlin only 16% of residents owned their homes, while in London, the figure is more like 50%.

So, there you have it – we can turf the oldies out of their huge mansions, build some tiny flats on the site of a former factory using the hiked taxes of people who own an empty property – then we get the OAPs into these wonderful places while the rest of us move to our brand new (rented) Metropolitan Green Belt idylls in Buckinghamshire – problem solved?

Nope, I guess not.

So here’s some practical advice:

Help to Buy – the government scheme to help people with a small deposit buy a home.

Private renting – government advice on your rights and responsibilities when living as a tenant.

Legal advice for landlords and tenants – if you are in dispute about a tenancy agreement, you may be able to settle the matter with the help of solicitors.

Shelter – a UK charity which can help you apply for social housing.




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