‘Generation rent’? We’ve been here before
A home-owning majority in Britain was a one-generation blip. But if we are becoming a renting country again, we’ll need better regulation
Sometimes cliches get repeated so frequently that we no longer question their relevance. “An Englishman’s home is his castle” – the idea that an obsession with home ownership is somehow in our national DNA – is one of them. In fact, there is no age-old British tradition of merry men all owning their own homes.
As newspapers rejoice upon learning that the average UK home rose in value by about £22,000 last year, it is about time we recognised that the average young UK family is never going to be able to afford to buy that home. To find out when a home of your own was last as unaffordable as it is today, and to come up with some ways of exploring that new reality, one could do worse than turn towards the UK’s best-housed family: the royals.
Since 1983, the British social attitudes survey has made an annual record of the proportion of people who own a home or who have a mortgage. Back then, Queen Elizabeth was in her late 50s, and only 53% of her contemporaries – those aged 55 to 64 – were homeowners or buyers. When they were young, members of older generations had mostly rented privately or managed to secure a council home. Today we are returning to those times: homes are again too expensive to buy.