By Dr Stephen Fear, British Library’s Entrepreneur in Residence and Chairman of Fear Group
A home is somewhere we can be ourselves. Somewhere we can dress how we like, slob out on the sofa with an Indian takeaway, or watch exactly what we like on TV!
Sadly this isn’t the case for hundreds of thousands of young and old people across the United Kingdom.
It is estimated by some that we are 200,000 homes short of the current annual requirement for newly built homes, but I would argue the real figure is far higher than that.
I believe that we are 300,000 homes short every year if we are to truly alleviate homelessness and home depravity, and that to make real inroads into the problem we need 500,000 homes now and then 300,000 every year for the next ten years, after which we could probably drop back to 120,000 a year ongoing.
When politicians talk about homelessness they often refer to the unfortunate souls we see in various states of dereliction sitting under cash points, or sleeping in shop doorways. But the issue goes far deeper than that!
What about the young couple who moved in with one of the sets of parents nine years ago but who just cannot afford to move out, as the private rent in the London borough they live in would not allow them to live a decent life,never mind save a deposit.
A house costing £200,000 in Chiswick ten years ago might well be over £1m now! The deposit on such a house might be £300,000! how is a couple jointly on £60,000 pa going to manage to save that deposit as well as pay, perhaps £2000 PCM to rent a small flat in the private sector? They also have to eat, travel to work, and perhaps go to the cinema on orange Weds?
£30,000 each is well above the average wage so you can see how the problem is exacerbated by wage differentials. A single person has no chance!
In my opinion we need a radical change in our collective thinking.
Home ownership is a worthy aspiration, but it should not be the be all and end all.
Building more homes for long term affordable rental is critical to the continuing success of our economy. Why? Well unless people can live near their work they may not be able to serve you that cappuccino you enjoy, or attend a burning building come to that!
All our averagely paid workers spend too much of their monthly income on accommodation. Something that is both unfair and unsustainable in an advanced democratic society like the United Kingdom.
The issue isn’t just one for London. It exists across the country with places such as Bristol, Bath, Manchester and Leeds experiencing similar problems.
There is no doubt The Short Hold Tenancy Act is good legislation because without it ordinary people would not let their homes short term while they themselves moved elsewhere with their work. however it is only part of the solution.
We need to build 200,000 affordable homes every year to rent on long term regulated tenancies so that the people renting them can turn them into long term homes rather than a short term roof over their head. There is a big difference!
People that know they have a proper home, rented or owned, put down roots in the community which in turn alleviates crimes such as muggings, burglary etc.
A proper home is the foundation block of building communities and should be something we focus urgent attention on.
We simply must stop bickering and start building affordable homes. We do have the land but do we have the will?
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