There's no place like home
25 Oct 2015
By Andy Golding, CEO

If you follow the news then you’ll know home ownership is very much on the agenda. The political parties have made increased house-building a central demand in their recent conference speeches, and whilst views on the detail may differ, essentially home ownership remains a cultural marker (and a uniquely British one at that) of safe arrival into the ranks of the middle class.

David Cameron mentioned in his conference speech that there is a generation of hardworking men and women in their 20’s and 30’s who are waking up each morning in their childhood bedrooms and are therefore desperately eager to own their own home. So how do we make that happen?

What everyone seems to be agreed on across the political spectrum and in government (national and local), the developers and the banks, is that we need to see more homes built. It’s an extremely big challenge and it’s neither easy nor likely to happen quickly. Our recent political history is littered with politicians of all hues failing to achieve targeted levels of new house builds and the likelihood of us seeing the 250,000 new homes a year that we need, seems pretty low.

It will require more land to be made available, banks willing to lend, and that old chestnut of planning rules and regulations to be reformed. Basically nothing short of a complete overhaul of how things work today and coupled with a housing policy that joins up every stakeholder from top to bottom to provide affordable new homes that people can own.

Achieving this will take time, but before we even begin, we should ask ourselves whether these houses will be the homes that the eager house hunters want to buy with their earned deposits. A house is one thing but a home you actually want might be another thing altogether; simply having your own four walls might not be enough. A home is somewhere you want to live and experience the kind of life you want. A house is four walls and a roof. They are hopefully the same, but if we don’t build the houses people want, in the places that they want them, then they won’t be.

It will be interesting to see how any new policy takes shape and what the outcome will be – will a new housing policy provide what the eager house hunters want? It will be some time before we can tell and until then the private rental sector, which has been so fundamental in meeting housing needs in recent years – over three quarters of new households last year were provided by the private rented sector – will continue to meet the demand from the rising population.

A home does not have to be owned, and with regulation making mortgages less affordable and an increasing desire for flexibility, it is no surprise that aspiring 20 and 30 somethings prefer to wake up in their own bedroom, whether it is a rented one or a mortgaged one.

So perhaps the home owning politicians should accept that not every young individual or couple want to take the plunge and buy and therefore perhaps the emphasis should be on happiness and satisfaction, rather than an obsession with home ownership.