Affordable housing is one of our biggest concerns. Prime Minister David Cameron promises to build 200,000 new starter homes for new buyers… wait, aren’t we “generation rent”?
At the moment there is a lack of affordable housing across the UK. This lack of homes is pushing the price of houses up, up and up – meaning fewer people are able to buy their own home. There are a number of reasons why this is happening. The government builds way fewer houses than it used to in the 1960s and 1970s. The Conservative government in the 1980s led by Margaret Thatcher sold off council houses under the “right to buy” scheme. The scheme was a popular policy, but critics claim it created a shortage of housing. Another major reason is that planning permission for houses takes a long time to be granted. Not all permissions lead to houses being built.
Prime Minister David Cameron just promised to build 200,000 new homes which will be available for people to buy.
“Those old rules which said to developers: you can build on this site, but only if you build affordable homes for rent …we’re replacing them with new rules… you can build here, and those affordable homes can be available to buy.”
Whether this is achievable is uncertain… in 2007 the Labour government set a target of building 240,000 homes a year. Admirable idea… but they failed to meet this target. Even if the government hits this target it may not solve high rents. The Guardian reports that offering subsidies (benefits usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction) to builders creating more homes has actually made things worse.
Many call 16-25 year olds “generation rent” as rising house prices mean we are less likely to be able to afford to buy a house.
The housing crisis is also pushing up rents – even faster than the price of actually buying a house. The cost of renting a room in London has jumped more than 20% in the past five years. Landlords, rejoice.
The average price of renting in London is now £1,500 a month; outside the capital is £751. Don’t forget that when renting you’ll also usually need a month’s rent as a deposit. Affordable for some, but not for those searching for work, on lower paid jobs or zero-hours contracts.
It would seem new affordable houses are definitely needed. However, the i100 reports that housing charity Shelter is skeptical over whether David Cameron’s promised new homes are actually that affordable. They say on the minimum wage only 2% of homes would be affordable. Hmm.
One thing is for sure; rents are rising faster than our wages. Paying more for rent means you’re unable to save as much (if at all) for a deposit or mortgage, lowering your chances of getting your own place or saving for a pension. In many countries it’s the norm to rent all your life, but in the UK we seem to want to own our homes. The result? More and more graduates are moving back in with their parents to save. There’s been a 28% increase in 20-34 year olds living at home since 1997.
Searches for shared rooms have risen dramatically in the last few years as others cut costs by sharing a room. It takes two to tango.
The problem is that as people become more desperate for a place to live they end up forking out extortionate amounts for cramped and often substandard accommodation.
Take the single room in Clapham advertised at £800. Or the £730 per month “fully contained” flat … basically a bed in a kitchen. This “loft conversion” (see; cupboard) was posted at the reasonable price of £40 per week. The catch – there is no standing room. Your affordable halls of residence seem like a distant daydream, don’t they?
Warning; thinking about the housing crisis for too long may lead to nausea/anger/fear/a cold numb feeling spreading through your whole body.
However we’re practical folks here at Scenes of Reason so we’ve compiled a some ways to escape the housing crisis and jump on that property ladder.
The government runs a “Help to Buy” scheme which allows you to buy a house with a smaller deposit.
Under the scheme first time buyers are able to buy a property up to £600,000, paying only 5% upfront as a deposit.
Usually you’d need around 10% for a deposit. Happy days!
The government is also offering a loan to cover 20% of the price of a new property. For the first five years you won’t be charged fees on this loan.
The BBC also has a calculator which tells you where in the country is cheaper to rent or buy. However, perhaps just buying or building houses may not solve the housing crisis.
According to the Empty Homes Charity there are over 200,000 homes left empty for over six months, and over 600,000 houses empty in total. So perhaps to solve the housing crisis we should start trying to fill these houses, rather than just building new ones?
Will David Cameron deliver on his promise to build 200,000 new homes? Will these even be affordable? How can we end the housing crisis?
Take action: If you think more needs to be done, sign the Housing Federation’s Change.org petition “Solve Our Housing Crisis”
HSBC Rebrand = Hide Scandals, Become Credible? The bank may be about to stage a massive disappearing act.
Big bank HSBC is getting rid of 50,000 staff members across the world; 8000 of these from the UK.
Instead of face to face contact, customers can look forward to more online banking and “self-service”. We’re hoping self-service means you can just help yourself to money whenever you like.
HSBC is also reviewing whether they should move their HQ out of the UK. The bank’s UK branches are going to be re-branded under a different name. Ooh, fancy.
HSBC stands for Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. It was founded in Hong Kong in the 1860s. HSBC only moved across to Britain in the 1990s when they took over the UK’s Midland Bank.
Most of HSBC’s money comes from trading in Asia. At present they are losing money in the UK because of the Bank Levy. This taxes big banks on their profits and hit HSBC hard last year. They had to fork out £750 million to the tax office. Ouch.
So… it might make sense for HSBC to go home to Asia. But don’t panic HSBC customers; no decisions have been made yet.
HSBC decoded: If HSBC leave it will be a big blow for the government’s money-man; Chancellor George Osborne. He’s been struggling to keep banks and big businesses happy in the UK. Everyone worried about businesses leaving because of the EU referendum. If they do, it could damage the UK economy and mean fewer jobs and dollar for everyone. HSBC’s decision could be crucial.
HSBC’s UK high street branches are to be “ring fenced”. This means people’s deposits and mortgages are separated from the bits of HSBC that trade on the financial markets. The idea is that by keeping them separate your money is safer. These rules were brought in after the financial crisis.
The HSBC rebrand means UK branches will launch under a different name. For the banking world this is like Coca Cola changing its name to something like Lilt or 7UP. It may be big news but the product being sold is still a fizzy drink. Change the name of a bank… and it’s still a bank.
The press has reported several scandals involving HSBC in the past few years.
The Guardian reported HSBC’s recent fine for money laundering charges. Money laundering takes money gained illegally (e.g. drug money, stolen cash) and makes it look as though it was obtained legally.
HSBC’s Swiss branch was supposedly also found to have helped people avoid paying tax by hiding their income from the tax man.
This doesn’t mean all bankers are crooks, but it definitely wasn’t good press for HSBC. Is the planned HSBC rebrand an opportunity to distance themselves from the bad vibes? Not according to them:
“We will operate with a different brand name… The reason for doing it is actually so that clients are aware whether they are dealing with the ring-fenced bank or the non-ring fenced bank. Obviously if both are called HSBC it’s a bit confusing… It’s more about clients being able to work out which one they are dealing with than it is about anything else.” – HSBC Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver, speaking at a HSBC investor update.
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