Home ownership is no longer an option for many, and certainly isn’t the answer

(This is the text of an article I had published in the Brighton Argus on 15 November 2014)

Last week the estate agents, Savills, published a report saying that the percentage of under 35s owning a home will drop from 28% to 16% in the next 4 years, a drop of 520,000 young people who will all need to rent.

Home ownership in Brighton and Hove is increasingly becoming an option open only to wealthy Londoners who are selling up in the capital and moving to Brighton.

So who will house ordinary people, those on low incomes and, increasingly, middle-earning households? They cannot afford to buy and with rents at a record high, they cannot afford to rent.

The market is failing to meet housing need. Large housing associations have all but turned their back on providing homes for rent at truly affordable levels.

I have three suggestions for the manifestos of the parties as we approach the local elections in May 2015:

  • Where land is available for development, and as much is owned by the City Council, it should be earmarked for homes for rent at truly affordable levels;
  • Council officers should be required to proactively and enthusiastically engage with local community housing organisations so that we can provide the homes for rent that local people so desperately need; and
  • New and imaginative approaches to building should be encouraged, be it fast and affordable off-site manufactured homes or short-life housing on sites that are available for five to ten years.

Of course I would suggest temporary housing using things like converted shipping containers such as Brighton Housing Trust’s scheme at Richardson’s Yard, developed in partnership with QED Estates Ltd.

Others see the value of this innovation, and I was delighted that BHT and QED have won awards, most recently last week a prestigious national housing award for Innovation of the Year.

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