A secure home is vital to wellbeing—all should have one
In 1983 your chance of owning your own home was over 70 per cent for people aged between 29 and 49. In 2012 the lucky group who had a 70 per cent or more chance of owning their homes were aged 58 to 85. Home ownership and rapid house value inflation was a “bonus” won by just one generation. And yet a secure home is one of the most important factors influencing wellbeing. We need to make it available to all.
In the distant past most people did not buy their own home. Even in 1983 a majority of those aged over 50 were renting from the local council or from the remnants of the old private rented sector. Council housing, and regulated private sector rents, had put slum landlords out of business. People saw the quality of their housing improve. Now, as a result of the “right to buy” policy, the total social housing stock is much smaller. Quality today improves only for a minority, while many others live in increasingly overcrowded property, often poorly maintained by its private landlord.
The mortgage market grew in the 1980s, along with a new private rented market for students and young professionals. By the 1990s fewer older people rented, but younger people were increasingly unable to get mortgages and the private rented sector expanded rapidly. With the economic crash in 2008, it became even harder for first-time buyers, but surprisingly easier for buy-to-let landlords. Most people aged 25 to 50 were renting again, but now mostly from private landlords. Private tenants doubled between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, from 5 million to 10 million across the UK.
Since 2010 council tax benefit has been cut all across the UK, and rent, gas and electricity costs have gone up. A quarter of British households, mostly with children, can no longer pay for rent, fuel and food and manage to save at least £10 a month. Relying on charities to help feed the poorest through food banks shows that this government views such activities—being able to live a decent life—as discretionary.