I agree Gavin Barwell, relying on a rich, dead, relative should not be the way to buy a home. The housing market should be able to facilitate affordable home ownership without someone being 6 Feet under or living in a hamster cage. So let’s build more social housing.
It is seldom that I write directly about home ownership, this blog is typically a mish-mash of things related to social housing, internal processes thereof or me being annoyed at Central Government that negatively affects social housing. But, as is now, I occasionally will stray. In this particularly instance it is some recent comments from our new Housing Minister that have piqued my interest.
Fetch the shovel
The first comment of note is Mr Barwell’s quite honest (and accurate) response to a question around home ownership and how first time buyers can get on that mythical housing ladder. By stating that Grandparents should by-pass their children for the sake of their Grandchildren’s ability to buy a home he has presented a quite reasonable approach tackling diminishing home ownership. This is fairly appropriate and reasonable, the issue is two-fold.
1) The most obvious – It’s bollocks. I, as a qualified, reasonably well paid, worker should not have to rely on a rich relative dropping dead to buy a bloody house. The fact that people are having to do so in order to afford the deposit for a mortgage is a sure-fire sign that years of crap housing policy (from all political parties) is coming home to roost. I agree with Mr Barwell that this shouldn’t be the case. The problem is his party have been making the situation a lot worse for the past 6 years. Going, yeah it’s a bit shit, right now isn’t helpful. Though it is a start.
2) Housing supply is the key concern in terms of driving up the cost of housing, not necessarily the ability to buy (in many instances credit has never been cheaper to access). Social mobility will stagnate until housing supply increases because it is this (and not scrapping right to buy in social housing) that is causing stock blocking and wealth inequality to sky-rocket. Renewed Government interest in funding housing projects might help, but much more is needed. Especially in terms of more social housing. Which pays for itself and even works post Brexit. Just saying.
I am not a Hamster
Sadly Mr Barwell’s other interjection has actually annoyed me (the other is a bit of a misquote). Call me picky, but I don’t want to live in a house that doesn’t meet current building regulations, because they’re actually pretty shit. Britain already has the smallest sized houses in Europe (the continent, not the EU, shut up Brexiters). Making them smaller isn’t going to help. Whilst it’s happened to a number of day-to-day products like Cadbury Chocolate bars. Yes you cheeky sods, I’ve noticed they’re smaller, and you’ve put your prices up. Bastards. Doing the same for properties just builds up issues down the line.
Whilst some might think that my age cohort splash out cash on overly pricey crap and skiing holidays, we’re mostly just getting by. You’ve had your cake, and eaten it, kindly don’t lecture me. I don’t want to live in a tiny house. I don’t want to live in a converted shipping container. What I want is for my reasonable pay to be able to afford a reasonably sized house, preferably within a 1 hour commute from my job. That is not an outlandish wish, but as prices (both rental and ownership) continue to outstrip wage growth, it might as well be.
Wrapping it up
I am willing to give Mr Barwell some leeway. His predecessors have said/done much dumber things. As Housing Minister Grant Shapps championed a policy that increased social rents (i.e. Affordable Rents) to those likely to receive housing benefit (i.e. those living in housing provided by Social Landlords) whilst the Government he worked for was trying to reduce that very same bill. Barwell’s statement on inheritance is quite sensible, but for many it is simply not an option. And at least with his idea for smaller homes he’s trying to think outside the box. But with a Government that is at least wanting to sound like it will make Britain work for all (as long as you’re British…) something other than ‘hope you have rich relatives’ is needed.
*Updated to emphasise misquote of Barwell in the Independent.