By not planning to build we're constructing a crisis for our children
If I had a pound for every time I've been told that moving house is the most stressful thing we do, I would have stopped making my own sandwiches years ago.
Many of us above a certain age can relate to the gut-wrenching reality of stepping onto the property ladder for the first time and realising the enormity of the decision we have just made. This landmark usually follows the tiresome ritual of countless unsuccessful offers, wet handshakes with estate agents who won’t look you in the eye, tedious surveyors and a seemingly endless wait for contracts to be exchanged.
Despite all the warnings from our elders, millions of us have made a beeline for the building society in a lemming-like fashion because we believe bricks and mortar is still the best place to invest our cash.
But for how long will that be the case? While the housing market is still reasonably healthy in most parts of the country the future picture looks a tad gloomier.
To talk down a nation’s economy, and to a lesser extent, its housing market, has long been a taboo among decision makers but last week the Government published a white paper titled ‘How to fix our broken housing market’.
It is fair to say it wasn’t universally well received: big property developers resented the ‘broken’ label being applied to their industry while many were underwhelmed by the proposals to fix the problem.
Two of the headline conclusions were that we are still not building anywhere near enough new homes - this was the report’s opening line - and that more new homes should be available for rent.
This makes it even harder for young people to become proud homeowners, something borne out by statistics which show that the number of 25 to 35 year olds buying their own home has fallen by a staggering 30 per cent in the past couple of decades and that half of those have to turn to their parents if they are to stand any chance of finding the, now hefty, deposit required.
In regions such as the South East and London, the eye-watering cost of an average property means that young home owners are a rare breed.
While the big property firms say that their output has increased over the past three years, it is beyond question that more needs to be done to encourage builders to build more. The white paper outlines proposals to speed up the planning process but will that solve anything?
In a conversation with a leader of a local council the other day, he spoke of his frustration that there is nothing he can do to encourage developers to use the planning permissions once they are granted. Big developers have previously been accused of ‘landbanking’, or storing up potential sites, although this is something they strenuously deny.
The Government says we need to see more than 250,000 homes being built every year if we are to avoid a full blown crisis in the future yet doesn’t tell us how we will achieve this.
My fear isn’t just whether there will anybody to buy my own home when I eventually come to move into my bungalow near the sea but also how my own children will get onto the ladder.
It is my wish that they too experience the sheer misery of buying a house.