More new builds won’t solve a housing crisis! | Rebecca Jane column
On GB News this weekend, I had a rather lovely and fiery debate with my pal Mike Parry about homeownership.
The wonderful man that is Mark Dolan kicked off the show with a monologue highlighting all of the problems with the current housing market, and the fact younger generations cannot get on it. The solution he suggests is to ‘build baby build’, if we build, more supply will lessen prices and more people will own their own home.
Mike belongs to the baby booming generation and champions Mark’s strategy. I’m camp millennial, and I do not.
I understand Mike, I really do, because my parents have harped on that owning homes is the most important thing in life since the moment I was born.
Mike stated he bought his first home for 1.5 times his salary of the time. My parents bought their first terrace for just £750, in the heart of Burnley. I actually don’t entirely stand by the affordability argument that current generations can’t afford their own home.
Affordability today is a problem, houses are extortionately expensive, but they’ve never been cheap. It’s right that owning a home should be a financial challenge, because when you own the home, it is still ‘a challenge’. It’s not just about the mortgage cost, there’s upkeep, unexpected maintenance costs and not to mention associated bills!
It’s right that first time buyers are challenged and forced to make sacrifices to getting on the ladder. However, the cost of homes has gone too far, and urgently needs addressing.
On the other side of this argument. I don’t think everyone can’t afford to get on the ladder. I think some are making the choice not to, and that’s ok too!
In 2003/4 I worked in property development. I moved away from our lovely Lancashire land to Cumbria, chasing the property dream. It worked, really well, for a while… I was 22 years old, living in a £750,000 converted barn on the edge of the Lake District. There were many people like myself during that time, who, if we’re being honest, couldn’t really afford it.
Fast forward a couple of years, and it was people like myself that caused the market to crash and burn in 2008. The lessons of that period should never be forgotten, because the repercussions were enormous.
Owning your own home is one thing, but the pressure and stress of living beyond your means is soul destroying. Today, my home is beautiful, it’s a good size, I’m very happy, but it’s not quite the sprawling starter mansion I once had - thank god!
You couldn’t pay me to take that amount of stress on again. I never felt happier than the day I got rid of that home, because I was living beyond my means. I had been dazzled by the pretty picture ‘on paper’ and achieved my goals, whatever the cost.
How much of the property argument, saying ‘we can’t afford to get on the ladder’ or ‘we can’t afford the home we need’ is more about greed or personal desires? I had two friends in recent years who said they ‘can’t get’ a home. What they actually meant to say was ‘we can’t afford the home we want, the one down a private little lane, with electric gates, 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and 4 stables’.
Ultimately they could afford a home, but not the home they wanted. After multiple failed mortgage applications, they moved into rented accommodation because it was more like the house they wanted, rather than what they could actually afford.
If we strip it back to basics, forget about what we want, make a few sacrifices, live within our means and look for homes we can actually afford. How many of the people saying they ‘can’t afford’ to buy a home would actually be able to get on the ladder?
So what is the solution?
Affordability is a problem and the government needs to intervene. Hard work needs rewarding. There are millions of people out there who graft religiously and are willing to make incredible sacrifices in order to put a roof over their family’s head. Those people need as much help as possible. What that solution looks like, goodness knows.
Building on green belt and ‘build baby build’ - Mark, I adore you, but no. Please, dear lord, no!
Mike called me a ‘green belt snob’ when I absolutely ruled out taking any more of our precious land for building. I live in Clitheroe, an epicentre of new builds! WE CAN’T COPE! Someone got very giddy in the Ribble Valley council department and approved every piece of paper they were shown after 2014, and now our locality is really struggling.
We don’t have the schools, the roads, or the emergency services to cope. Children are being given school places miles away because our schools are now full! We have two main roads in and out of our town for the thousands of people that commute to work, and potholes, flaming endless.
If more of our land was used for food and fuel, instead of throwing up millions of new homes, maybe we wouldn’t have the ‘cost of living crisis’ we currently have today!
So Mike, Mark… if you pair can go back in your box and come up with another solution please, I would be most grateful. ‘Build baby build’ is certainly not the one.