Guest columist Roy Bainton: A lot of us older folk have to accept the fact that, when it comes to having a secure roof over our heads we are lucky.
But for young people starting out in life in Britain today, the chances of owning their own home are diminishing rapidly.With an acute shortage of social housing, the escalating cost of mortgages and the steep rents collected by the new landlords in the buy to rent movement, many young people have little choice other than remaining under their parents’ roof.In Spain, where 83 per cent of the population live in owned property, unemployment is at 27 per cent. Contrast this with Germany, which has 41 per cent home ownership, where unemployment is just over 5 per cent. Switzerland, one of the richest places in Europe with just 3 per cent unemployment, only has 38 per cent home ownership compared to the UK, where 70 per cent of us struggle to own our homes. As Europe’s most successful economy, many rent-paying Germans may like the idea of home ownership but they are not obsessed by it as we are. In Britain, after 1979 we were told there was no such thing as society and anything publicly owned was designated as down market. Massive privatisation followed, and the Right to Buy legislation fitted in well with Margaret Thatcher’s dream of a nation of property-owning shareholders. The trouble was, all those publicly built rented homes for working people sold at knock-down prices would not be replaced. Today’s young people, many on low wages or zero hours contracts, have inherited a legacy of vastly inflated house prices, so that for most, even basic accommodation is out of reach.A depressing new YouGov poll for the National Housing Federation reveals that parents’ fear their children will never be able to afford their own homes. While 81 per cent of parents in England with children 18 and under are worried about the impact of rising house prices on the next generation. Twenty-five per cent are already saving money specifically for their children’s first home and 6 per cent of children are reliant on hand outs from their own parents to help with spiralling housing costs. We need to build more houses and the idea of renting a home should not equate to being a second-class citizen. An Englishman’s home can be his castle, whether it be mortgaged or rented, so why are we so hung-up on home ownership?