That isn’t a typo, of the 25,480 households in Medway, 8,375 of those properties have two spare bedrooms and it is this topic I want to talk about this week. The fundamental problem of the Medway housing crisis, is the fact that the supply of homes to live in has not historically met demand, increasing property values (and in turn rents), thus ensuring home ownership becomes an unattainable ambition for the twenty something’sof Medway.
Call me a realist, but it’s obvious that either demand needs to drop or supply needs to rise to stop this trend getting worse for the generations to come. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Downing Street’s plans to build 200,000 starter homes which will be offered to first time buyers under 40 with a minimum 20% discount price. However, the building of starter homes on current building sites (where new homes builders already have to build a certain number of affordable ‘starter’ homes at the moment under a different scheme) does not increase the stock of new ‘starter’ homes, it simply replaces one affordable scheme with another. One option that could resolve the housing crisis is if the Government literally looked closer to home, concentrating on matching households with the appropriate sized home. In Medway, 17,560 households have one spare bedroom and of these, 8,375 have two or more spare bedrooms. This compares to 929 households in Medway that are overcrowded (i.e. there are more people than bedrooms in the property). Looking specifically at the homeowners of Medway, 6,545 owner occupied Medway houses have one spare bedroom. Now, whilst having a spare bedroom is not considered a luxury, there are a further 7,319 owner occupied Medway households with two or more spare bedrooms.
|So many Medway properties with spare bedrooms.....|Therefore, I believe there is spare capacity in the Medway housing market. Principally, I will concentrate on the group that makes up the bulk of this category, the owner occupiers of large properties, in their 60’s and 70’s, where their kids flew the nest back in the 80’s and 90’s. ‘Downsizing’ is when you sell a big property, where the extra bedrooms are no longer required, to move into a smaller and, usually, less expensive property. There may be many explanations why these individuals are not currently downsizing. These people have lived in the same house for 30, 40 even 50 years, and as one matures in life, many people do not want to depart from what they see as the family home. Much time has been invested in making friends in the area and it’s nice to have all those rooms in case everygrandchild decided to visit, at the same time, and with their friends! As the years go on, we may well have a situation where younger families will be living in smaller and smaller houses, whilst all the large houses have 70 something empty-nesters rattling around them! I believe the Government should put more weight behind downsizing, because with the right incentives, many could be encouraged to think again and make the spare rooms available.
It would have to be incentives, as the using the stick (instead of the carrot) would be political suicide for any party, especially the Tory’s. One option is to allow retired downsizers not to pay stamp duty on their new property, saving them thousands of pounds. Another could be for planners to work with builders to build not only starter homes for under 40’s, but also have housing built just for retired downsizers, or is this one step too far in social engineering?
|Should the government be encouraging people to downsize?|The fact is not enough properties are being built in Medway, and with population rising at a faster rate, something needs to be done. However, I believe the Medway population (and in fact the whole of the UK) is slowly turning into a more European model of house ownership. In Europe, most people rent in their 20’s and 30’s, only buying in their 40’s and 50’s, when they inherit money from the sale of their late parent’s property. That seems to work particularly well in Germany and I can’t see why it can’t work here. In the meantime, there is an opportunity in the coming 20 years for people to supplement their pension by buying smaller properties to rent out, as that seems to be where the demand may be in the next few decades in Medway.
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· All my stats have come from the 2011 census, which was released approximately 18 months ago.