One hot topic at the moment is the lack of affordable housing across the UK compared to the number of unused bedrooms in some of the larger houses across the country. Certain members of the UK coalition government have stepped forward to suggest that those in larger houses with unused bedroom capacity should be “encouraged” to downsize and thereby alleviate the acute housing crisis in the UK.
As you might guess, these comments have attracted a whole range of arguments for and against the idea and while the reality is it will never be introduced as a “forcible eviction” we may see some tax incentives discussed for those in the “downsizing” category.
What right do the authorities have?
In some ways this argument has been flipped on its head with an initial suggestion by the coalition government, official policy or unofficial policy we are not sure, that those with an array of unutilised bedrooms and high maintenance costs may be better off thinking about downsizing. This comes at a time when rates, heating bills, electric bills and an array of other everyday expenses continue to rise. We also have the winter fuel allowance taking centre stage again as we approach the next cold snap so perhaps this discussion was just one of many different angles put into the public domain.
Quote from PropertyForum.com : “Average house prices are edging up in many parts of the UK helped by increased confidence and the effect of the government’s Help to Buy scheme, according to analysts.”
The fact is, pure and simple, the UK government could not and would not forcibly evict anybody from a privately owned house. As we mentioned above, future governments may well look to introduce attractive tax incentives then again you have to look at the broader picture, if these larger houses were placed on the market, would they be any use to those struggling to find affordable property?
Wrong time, wrong market
In general, it is some of the larger privately owned houses in the UK which have the millions of underused and unutilised bedroom capacity. The government seems to be shifting the blame for the ongoing UK housing crisis towards those who are under utilising their homes but the fact is that the average home in the UK is now unaffordable to the first-time buyer, so how would they ever afford a larger home?
In a move which some in the UK find difficult to understand, the UK property sector is beginning to push ahead again at a time when the UK economy is stagnant and household incomes are under pressure. So, while some politicians would favour those in larger houses downsizing to make more properties available to those with large families, the affordability factor for many people is getting worse. The fact is that the UK economy is showing some signs of strength and will eventually recover but it will be some time before we see any significant increase in general household incomes.
So, we have household income under pressure, the UK banks are unwilling to go out on a limb for mortgage loans and there is an affordable housing crisis.
Looking to the future
Instead of trying to put pressure on those living in private property with underused bedrooms, perhaps the UK government should be looking at ways to increase affordable housing stock at a rate which will at least close the current gap. We have seen the introduction of various financial schemes to assist first-time buyers, we have seen the emergence of housing associations but the fact is that at this moment in time affordable housing is in scarce supply.
The UK population continues to grow and while many people would prefer to own their own property they are now being forced to rent or remain at their parent’s premises. There is no quick fix to this ongoing problem and it will take decades to make up the shortfall in new housing stock which was so blatantly manipulated by previous governments.