Britain’s young people to struggle to get on the property ladder

The UK’s dwindling stocks of affordable housing has often been called a crisis. But in the report Housing options and solutions for young people in 2020 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) says things will only get worse without drastic action.

While the bond traders and investment bankers of tomorrow are likely not to feature among the predictions made in this report, the less well remunerated in society will be be increasingly unlikely to secure a decent place to live. And this will have deeper democratic implications: socially essential, but poorly paid, jobs will attract fewer people.

The report makes grim reading for anyone not earning a large salary.  Grimmer, too, if you are young and not earning big bucks.

It rams home the stark fact that young people are going to suffer. From those in education to those leaving it, the future for a generation is bleak.

Bad enough knowing they will be job hunting during the worst depression since the 1930s. But this report is unflinching in describing the grim realities of the housing market in eight years time.

Buying a house will be even harder. The Council of Mortgage Lenders say the average age of first time buyers was 31 in 2009.

On current projections the National Housing Federation says if an average 21-year-old today saves regularly, does not have other financial support and has no children, they will be 43 when they are able to afford to buy their own home.

By 2020 demand will have risen on all forms of housing – home ownership, private renting and social housing. As a result almost 5 million people aged between 18 and 30 will be living with their parents.

People with low-paid jobs, young families, disabilities, and the so-called ‘chaotic young’ who have spent time homeless and in and out of social housing – all will be marginalised.

By JRF estimates, an extra 6,000 people aged 18 to 24 will fall into the ‘chaotic’ category in 2020, unable to find stable housing.

Supply and demand

Why the youth of Britain face waiting as long as 22 years to buy a home is simple. There will not be enough houses for everyone.

Demand will beat supply and prices will rise.

This report underlines the need to increase the supply of housing. But it also shows that schemes to help first time buyers is only a short term answer.

Without more houses, it makes little difference how easier you make buying for some. The end result is that it will only serve to inflate the property prices still further.

Not increasing housing supply by 2020, the report warns, will only increase pressure on the private renting sector and social housing – with both these sector needing to increase supply.

There are many positives in renting for young people, not least the flexibility of short term leases. But the report identifies a clear need to increase supply and improve the quality of rented accommodation by driving investment into the sector. The report advocates using the tax system to provide incentives to individuals and institutions to invest in homes to rent.

A result of reduced investment in the social housing, the report says, means that housing stock is also likely to have decreased by 2020. A distressing possibility identified by the authors is the likely increase in the number of young people deliberately becoming homeless to secure social housing.

Not resolving the shortage in housing will mean young people will be increasingly marginalised in the housing market. This in turn will impact the opportunities they can pursue.

Roles integral to society but with poor pay packets will become less and less attractive.  This will have an impact on many professions.  And from the Bureau’s own rather myopic perspective this is of concern to journalism.

The home of the media

We hold journalism to be fundamental to democracy.  But as old media crumbles, journalist’s pay packets are looking less and less attractive.  Fewer will be able to afford to enter this profession – particularly those who do not come from well-off homes.

And without a wide social panoply of journalists holding the powerful to account, corruption and incompetence will flourish and the public will be disenfranchised.

The lure of working in the well-paid worlds of public relations and press offices is already too strong for many in the profession.

Unless the housing crisis is averted this trend will only increase.

Written by Jack Serle of TBIJ.