Pandemic real estate boom leaves our children with nowhere to go
Home prices are skyrocketing because we want our home more than ever and are willing to invest in it. We need our home to be versatile. During the claustrophobic days of Covid, our home alternated between office, school, gymnasium, entertainment, living room, church and, of course, a safe space where we could throw our masks, literally as well as metaphorically.
But that’s not all a house has to offer. “Location Location Location,” Phil and Kirsty sang, and they were right: owning a property gives us a place and sometimes a role in a particular community. We saw it during the pandemic: local groups sprang up spontaneously to buy vulnerable neighbors, feed school children, tidy up the church garden. This doesn’t mean that someone who rents their home won’t be up to the task, but – as Margaret Thatcher so astutely noted – landlords have a greater stake in the company. Because they can’t lift sticks so easily, they invest in keeping their communities clean, safe and friendly.
A NatWest and CSJ poll released this week shows that in areas with the strongest sense of community ownership, ownership is 40%; where it is lowest, home ownership is only 22 percent. But living shoulder to shoulder with the winners are the big losers in this market game.
The asking price for our listed sandstone barn, slightly adapted for human habitation, is £ 800,000 – peanuts by London standards, but well above local income. Neighbors look on sadly: the “excap” (exodus from the capital) has driven up prices in their countryside.
The locals are not the only ones in pain. Young people also feel excluded. Study the expressions of your young people in their twenties when they go to Zoopla or Rightmove. The news that grandmother and grandfather’s nest egg is now a Fabergé fills them, as well as their brothers and sisters and their cousins: how old will they be when they can afford a house for themselves? them?
The National Lottery has nothing on this subject. If you are lucky enough to be born into a family that owns a property in the south or west of England, you will benefit from an intergenerational spillover effect that will allow you to become a homeowner. Everyone, however, risks an uncertain cramped life in the shadow of homeowners, precarious credit scores, and possible evictions.
The generational divide over trans rights, campus cancels out culture, and Black Lives Matter risks becoming an unbridgeable chasm on bricks and mortar. We baby boomers are the envied “people from somewhere”; our children, the humiliated people out of nowhere.
Cristina Odone heads the Family Policy Unit at the Social Justice Center