The phrase ‘housing crisis’ is rarely off politicians’ lips these days as they increasingly recognise that the cost of a home – to buy and to rent – plays a key role in determining living standards. And quite right too as new Resolution Foundation analysis shows that the crisis is both acute and widely felt.
Home ownership levels among today’s young families are way below those enjoyed by their parents’ generation. But the scale of the falls are simply shocking. As the chart below illustrates, the proportion of young families (aged 25 to 34) owning their homes in Outer London has fallen by almost two-thirds over the last twenty years.
But before non-Londoners turn away, this is not just another housing sob story about the capital. Look again at the chart and you’ll see stark falls in home ownership across the UK. The proportion of young families owning their home has halved in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester. Other parts of the South East – including Brighton, Reading and Milton Keynes – aren’t far behind and neither are East Anglia, Merseyside or the South West. The struggle to get on the housing ladder truly is a national problem.
It’s worth taking a breath, though, and asking whether it really matters that so many young families don’t own their homes. After all, lots of families rent on the continent don’t they? There are three key reasons why we should be concerned.
First, renting in the UK is expensive, insecure and often unpleasant. Those conditions might be bearable when you’re young, single and mobile, but it can be a huge strain if you’re raising a family.
Second, owning a home is a key way that families build up an asset to hedge against the costs of retirement. People don’t want to still be paying a private landlord out of their pension. And as we’ve learned in recent days, housing is a key asset to draw down on if you or your loved ones have care needs.
Third, and most simply, people want to own their own home. We are a rich country. Telling young people they should no longer aspire to something that older generations have sends a terrible message to future generations about their prospects in life.
It’s good to see, then, a number of housing pledges scattered through this week’s manifestos. With all parties committed to building more homes, improving the private rented sector and helping young people buy their first home, there’s no lack of ambition in any of the parties’ plans. But after years of similar sounding promises and countless failed initiatives, it is delivery that young families are looking for. They – along with us – will be closely watching the post-election space…