I remember the feeling as a reporter when I wrote about workers who were taking action over what they perceived to be bad wages, and would realise they were paid more than me.
I’m reminded of this today when I hear of measures aimed at helping young families onto the housing ladder and the need to address the country’s housing crisis. I am not debt ridden, or badly paid. But when Grant Shapps talks of young families who are caught in a pincer movement between the paucity of available credit, high housing prices and the substantial deposits needed to get decent mortgages, it feels like he could be talking about me.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps’ pledge in The Observer to deliver some stability to Britain’s housing market will come as welcome news to millions of people who can not afford to get a foot on the ladder.
In making the case for a cultural shift in the way Britons view their property investment, Mr Shapps is stating what many people who do not own their home have been aware of for years: that the current status quo should not be allowed to continue.
The facts in the South West, which has some of the highest house prices and lowest household incomes of any area in the country, are stark. In some areas, house prices are more than 15 times the average annual salary. Holding down two jobs is clearly not going to be enough in this case; 12 may just about do it.
I welcome the recognition that house prices can not be allowed to sky-rocket as they have done in the past, even if it is acknowledged that the Government can not set the cost of home ownership in this country. There are other elements to this complex issue, however. A focus on increasing and diversifying supply, creating a well-regulated and effective private rental sector as an alternative to home ownership and improving access to mortgage finance can all help in this area.
That’s a big set of challenges, but I know plenty of people in the sector who are up for playing their part in addressing them.