Housing is one of the big stories of the year, in terms of the impact it has on the economy and our lives. But a glance at the daily headlines reveals very little about the issues the sector faces that is new in itself, and merely seems to confirm what we already know.
Inside Housing, for example reports findings from a poll by Safestore which looks at public views on home ownership. The storage and removal company used that old PR tactic – a survey – to highlight familiar concerns (that we can’t raise the money we need to buy) and package these as a ‘finding’ that half the country won’t be able to buy a home in the future.
Meanwhile, The Observer highlighted a different study yesterday, by Cambridge University, which suggested that just over a quarter of us will be homeowners by 2025, compared with 35% now.
Stark findings, but this is not news any more than the countless stories of the ‘housing boom’ which reminded us that we were mortgaging ourselves into oblivion in the early part of the last decade were. I remember writing about the price of the average home in Sheffield topping £100,000 for the first time. Talked up by the media, fuelled by eager estate agents ‘bigging up’ the market and buoyed by easy credit, people didn’t seem to care as prices kept on rising.
As a renter who is about to get back on the housing ladder after two years, I don’t need research to tell me we’re in a vastly different place to when I last bought a house in 2005. At that time, Northern Rock offered us a mortgage worth 110% of the value of our house (thankfully, we turned that down).
Reasons for the current difficulties – lack of available credit, the huge deposits needed to get near a mortgage – are regularly cited. But another issue, not highlighted often but a burden nonetheless, was raised by Kirsty Allsopp in The Telegraph yesterday. The brief item quoted her criticising stamp duty.
“Fewer and fewer people are moving house now because of the increase in stamp duty. Everyone is digging down right now to make extra space where they are. It’s happening in my street and it is incredibly annoying as there’s so much noise and disruption.
“At the top end, where the rate is now at seven per cent, it leaves people with little option but to dig if they want more space. As well as the noise and disruption, it is making the market stagnant.”
There’s one for the pollsters to look at.