18 Sep 2011

Housing crisis in UK

8:55 pm on 18 September 2011

Britain is facing a severe housing crisis. Buying is no longer an affordable option for a generation who rent.

According to Shelter, a homeless charity, more than 1.7 million people are on waiting lists for social housing.

At its peak more than 70% of British people owned their own home. But two recent reports have highlighted how the dream of home-ownership is going into reverse.

Deutsche Welle Radio reports that only 105,000 homes were built in England in 2011, the lowest level since the 1920s.

A survey of more than 14,000 potential buyers by the Rightmove property website shows that the number of "first-timers", mostly younger people, has fallen dramatically.

A second report by Oxford Economics reveals that home ownership has been on the decline for several years. It predicts that by 2020, figures will fall back to levels last seen 30 years ago.

The British love affair with owning a home took hold in the 1980s, when then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher set the tone by calling for the creation of a "property owning democracy."

Her government set policies in place to deregulate mortgage financing and allow social housing tenants to buy their own homes.

Latest figures suggest young people will have to save until they are at least 37 before they can afford the deposit on their first property.

"By far the single biggest concern, according to our survey, is access to mortgage finance," said Matthew James, of Rightmove.

Banks now demand the equivalent of 30,000 - 40,000 euros as a down payment, which some commentators think suggests further drops in property prices are expected.

House prices in Britain have already fallen 20% since their peak in 2007. But they are still six or seven times a young person's average annual salary.

Banks will now lend only four times a person's annual income.

Renting or moving back home

"Primarily what people are doing is renting privately," said Nicholas Hughes of Shelter.

''But that can be very expensive, particularly in London. Rents are rising, demand for properties is rising.''

Not surprisingly, says Deutsche Welle, many young people are moving back in with their parents.

More than 50% of 25-34 year-olds told another survey they doubt that they will ever afford to buy a home.

The latest study by Oxford Economics suggests that at present 67% of the British population own their own home.

It predicts that from a peak of more than 72% in 2001, home ownership will fall to 64% by 2021.