The Importance of Affordable Housing – 15th April 2015

With the election looming, I’m sad to say I heard something on the news yesterday which made me very angry.

The Conservative Government are proposing ‘The Right to Buy’ for people living in Housing Associations. This is EXACTLY what happened the last time we had a Tory government. People may remember a similar policy was proposed for those living in council houses. 

It may have seemed a great idea at the time and don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anyone who bought their own council house. But it ultimately led to a huge amount of social housing drifting into the private sector. A few residents made a profit. Yet many of these houses ended up being purchased by greedy landlords who are now charging sky high rents to their tenants. It has also led to a drastic shortage of social housing for those who need it most.

It seems preposterous to imagine that in the light of another tragic housing shortage, some 20 years later, the Tories are suggesting exactly the same thing again.

Housing Association

When I was researching my 2nd Book, Visions, I was exploring the area around Bromley and Orpington (which was roughly where I decided to base my fictitious town ‘Rosebrook.’) It was in one of the Orpington estate agents, I was trying to find out the average price of housing in the area, but it seems no coincidence, I stumbled across this news article.

Source: Bromley Times, September 11th 2011
Some 3,000 people are facing “imminent homelessness” because of a desperate shortage of affordable housing in the borough, according to a shocking council report…

Bromley Times, September 11th 2011

I have scanned and attached the piece for reference. But it seemed uncannily relevant, since this was one of the themes I wanted to focus on in my decades based British thriller series, Same Face Different Place. It draws on my own experience. In 1987/88 I found myself infuriatingly forced out of the housing market. I had my heart set on a small terrace in North Notts only to discover that house prices had trebled by the time I graduated.

It started with the electrification of the railway line – an influx of wealthy commuters selling their expensive London homes, forcing up property prices and ‘gazumping’ people. It was the well-known 80s phenomenon which led to soaring property prices. However, in 1990 and just before the recession, I started a new job and was just about able afford a tiny studio flat for £40,000.

This leads me on to the issue of borrowing. It used to be the norm for Building Societies to lend 2 and a half times your salary to purchase a home. I actually borrowed 4 times my salary to get my mortgage. So what is the situation for house buyers today?

  • Having done a little research, it appears that:
  • in 2014 the average wage in Britain was about £16,640 (£18,848 in the south east)
  • whereas the average property price was about £218,844 (£209,428 in the south east)
  • That is a staggering 11 TIMES YOUR SALARY!

No wonder so many young people are still living at home with their parents and will possibly never be able to afford a home of their own.

This is where housing associations were a Godsend. Take my sister, for example. She and her husband moved into a housing association when they were newly weds. Fortunately, their earnings went up as they successfully pursued their careers and as a result, they were finally able to get a foot on housing ladder.

But it was this type of accommodation that threw people a life line especially for those on low incomes. Housing associations have helped many people who would otherwise never be able to afford a decent home. So it seems particularly shocking that here is yet another form of social housing about to be turned over to the private sector.


 A piece from Visions by Helen J. Christmas

Visions“There’s also this government initiative, which allows council tenants to purchase their houses,” Peter continued. “I’ve got nothing against it – but what will those people do when they move? They’ll sell, won’t they? I know I would! Probably make a nice little profit too, which means a lot of council accommodation is eventually going to drift into the private sector.”

“You’re worried there won’t be enough social housing, aren’t you?” Eleanor muttered, “for those who really need it. So what’s your idea? And I promise I won’t laugh.”

“I was thinking about setting up some sort of housing trust,” Peter said in earnest, “for people on a lower income – to rent, not buy. Honest working people, who have been priced out of the market.”

About Helen J. Christmas

I am an English author and have written a series of novels, titled 'Same Face Different Place. Beginnings is a gangland thriller set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London. The second Book 'Visions' is a psychological thriller, set in Kent; a mystery that ensnares the owners of an historic, English Country House. Book 3 Pleasures contains suspense, thrills and YA romance, set in a backdrop of organised crime and at the advent of the British rave culture. There are 2 final books in the series, Retribution (Phase One) and Retribution (End Game) where the saga reaches its dramatic conclusion.
This entry was posted in England, Social History, The Decades, Thrillers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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