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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Housing boom 'creates underclass'
House builder at work
Not enough affordable houses are being built, says the RICS
A shortage of affordable housing is creating an "underclass" of people in the UK who cannot afford their own homes, research says.

A study by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found housing availability in the country was among the worst in the European Union.

While private housing building levels had remained steady over the past few decades, the supply of social and affordable housing had fallen to crisis levels, the RICS said.

"Continuous erosion" in subsidies for social housing and reduced incentives for house builders were blamed for the fall.

Prices double

RICS chief Louis Armstrong said: "A housing underclass is being created and its numbers are swelling to include people who traditionally would have been able to purchase their own home.

"House prices in the UK have doubled since 1995 and this means that large numbers of people, particularly in high value areas, have little hope of accessing decent housing."

The north-south property divide continued, with the North seeing the biggest price rises at 4.5%, compared with 2.2% and in Yorkshire and 1.8% in Humberside.

But at the same time the cost of property slumped by 3.6% in East Anglia, by 1.5% in the West Midlands, and by 1.4% in Greater London.

The RICS study found the UK now has an average 10% fewer homes than Germany, Italy and France when the size of the population was taken into account.

The news came as property website Rightmove.co.uk said house prices remained static in the four weeks to the middle of August.

It added house price inflation had fallen for the eighth month in a row to 12.4%, from 26.5% at the start of 2003.

But Rightmove did report an increase in activity among potential buyers, saying historically low mortgage rates had underpinned demand.

Your comments:

I am a proud member of the Housing Underclass. I work in Surrey, earn £39kpa, and would have to commit financial suicide to get into a rubbishy flat. On the other hand, I have no debts and reasonable savings. A warning to the debt-laden idiots who are sustaining this boom - we will enjoy buying your homes at auction when you get repossessed in a few years.
Mark, England

The government is in a no win situation. Either they address the housing problem and make housing affordable causing massive negative equity for those who are still buying or they leave it alone and the underclass grows.
Stephen, England

You cannot earn your own home any longer
Lisa, Bristol

The problem is not with the housing market, but this country's blind obsession with locating all economic activity within a 50 mile radius of London. The sooner we stop trying to concrete over South East England and start investing in our regions (along with decent transport) the sooner the housing crisis will be over.
Jonathan, England

An underclass has been created, certainly amongst some of the people I know. It is creating social problems like forcing couples to live together too soon. The real gap between rich and poor could be similar to a century ago now, as for most people their house is their largest asset. This shameful government should either put up interest rates or prevent people from buying-to-let numerous properties.
James, UK

After paying student debts there is little left to save for a house and even with a combined salary of £46K my partner and I can still not afford to get on the property ladder. There has to be some rapid government intervention to help first time buyers. We need to see discounts in house prices, reduced moving costs and bigger mortgages over longer periods.
Paul , England

Between us we earn an excellent salary and this is still not enough. The only first time buyers we know who have bought a house in the last year are those who have been helped out by Mummy and Daddy or who have inherited money. You have to earn at least 50k a year to be able to own your own home here and have either saved for years or have a rich family. You cannot earn your own home any longer.
Lisa, Bristol, UK

The price of property is becoming ridiculous. Even if you can buy, the risks involved due to the high mortgage required are massive. If the interest rates jump by a couple of percent there are going to be a lot of people in a lot of trouble. As far as trying to buy a house as a first time buyer. I just wouldn't take the risk. I don't think paying £120,000 for a property worth about £50,000 is sound business. How people on Salaries of around 12 - 14k are supposed to buy is beyond me. Something needs to be done before it gets even more out of control.
Iain Hamilton, UK

I live in Newport, South Wales with my wife. We are both Graduates, I have been working with IT firm for 3 years and my wife is currently training for a PGCE Primary. We cannot afford a decent house (not counting council estates or dodgy areas) of the City. Earning 30k between us. It is turning into London here. Forced to Rent until the market smoothens out. 5 years ago we would have been able to get a good house. Am afraid to buy in case of price decrease or small scale crash.
Andrew Price, Wales

When will people stop looking at home ownership as an investment and start thinking of home ownership as somewhere to live. When I bought my first house twenty years ago it was small and not where I wanted to live but we made it a home. When I bought that house I couldn't afford to furnish it and we were always overdrawn it each month. Interest rates were at 14%. History has shown that the first few years of home ownership are hard. However, take heart, things do get better.
Neil, Somerset, England

Flats/Houses in new developments are often snapped up by property companies for buy-to-let purposes before a brick has even been laid. If Landlords and 2nd home owners were to be taxed more heavily then this would discourage multi-home ownership and give first-time buyers the opportunity of getting on the ladder.
Russell, Bristol

What's wrong with affordable, rented accommodation? We seem to be obsessed with buying property. Is this because it is a way of making money when we then sell it on at a ridiculously inflated price?
Peter, Bristol, England

I am currently renting - something I hoped I would never have to do - but circumstances have forced me to do so. I am now looking at the possibility of building my own property in the future in an attempt to get on the property ladder. The current situation is crazy - some intervention is required to allow ordinary people with ordinary wages to be able to buy property.
Steve, UK

I work for local government in London. I do not earn enough to by a property in the south East on my own. This had resulted in living at home until my partner & I had saved money & found somewhere half decent that we could afford to buy.
Jayne, UK

Ban Buy-to-let landlords who have squeezed out first-time buyers.
Phil, Nottingham, UK

Sort the housing shortage by taxing multi-home owners £2,000 per year for any property other than their main residence. Buy-to-let houses would soon find there way back to the market place causing a correction. Problem here is people like Mrs Blair would loose out so not a plan likely to see the light of day .
Locky, UK

It is the combination of such high prices and the fear of negative equity that is stretching the market beyond its limits. The longer the government goes on without action, the bigger the fall. Potential buyers can see this and more and more who can afford to buy are keeping out of the market. After the collapse of the technology boom the property market became the safe investment. The problem however is with people continue to invest past the market limits. Its not if the bubble will burst but just a question of when. I look forward to buying my first house a lot cheaper and am opting to be part of the "underclass".
Andy, England

Although I have a decent-ish wage, I have been completely locked out of the market for some years. I'm nearly 32 years old and am starting to get very angry about it, especially when I see private landlords buying up all the old council stock. Very few people actually want to rent; we *all* want the security of owning our home, but we are *forced* into long-term renting by a market that is completely out of control.

I'm now just sick of the whole issue
Micky Jackson, East Sussex

The underlying problem is that houses are not regarded as homes any more. They are 'investments', free money for the risk-averse. It would be impossible to build enough homes to satisfy the highly-inflated demand of a society that is being taught to regard second and third home ownership as financial security.

Houses have become gambling chips in a giant game where the only losers are those who can't afford to play.
Reuben Harris, UK

I live in Cambridge with my girlfriend and together we earn in excess of 50k a year, but starter housing is totally out of reach for us even the rental market in Cambridge is getting out of control. In areas like this the buy to let market is out pricing locals as rich students are able to afford ever increasing rents.
Robert Jaocbs, UK

Personal responsibility seems to be lacking here to me. My wife and I bought a house around four years ago having saved money for the specific purpose of creating a good deposit. We do not earn mega bucks but by being determined and focused we got on the ladder, admittedly at a fortunate time, but now have a nice house and a reasonable amount of equity. Rather than blaming the government or those with multiple properties, I think people should assume responsibility for themselves, show some discipline and get on the ladder if they want to own their own home.
Andy, England

Markets are cyclical, there will no doubt be a correction, either steadily over time or a crash, fuelled mainly by interest rate rises. Bide your time, save your cash. The real issue is one of future prosperity and at the moment a crash would really destroy a lot of people's wealth, swelling the underclass and need for state help. A potential bloodbath!
Richard East, Cambridge UK

It would seem I am another victim of our housing underclass, working in the South of England, even with my current salary of almost £40K. Even with the relocation package offered by my current employer & reasonable personal savings I am unable to get anything close to a sensible deal on a property. my partner & I won't be risking financial ruin by waiting for the government to do something to correct this problem before we buy. We will instead be taking our UK university degrees & industry experience to a country that better serves its population.
Billy, England

I, like many of the respondents to this column, earn a healthy salary, and in many ways I am comfortably off, but I cannot afford a mortgage for a rabbit hutch.
Bob, GB

Why bother buying though? I can rent a really nice flat, or bankrupt myself buying a garden shed. Anyway, why don't a lot of people just move up North? I'm from there and know someone who recently sold a 3-bedroom house for less than £40K. Some of us are stuck down here for the rat-race, but there are plenty of people who can find equal employment elsewhere.
Chris, England

It's nice to know that I have moved out of the working class bracket.... into the underclass. I'm now just sick of the whole issue.
Micky Jackson, East Sussex UK

I am one of the irresponsible 'buy-to-let' landlords, by virtue of the fact that I no longer have a pension plan. I purchased my first home in 1980, and then slowly invested most of my savings & pension plan into the UK property market. This was entirely due to the boom-bust economic situation during the last decade. Have I succeeded in replacing my pitiful former pension plan with an alternative? The answer can only be known when I retire. My advice - don't complain about it, do something.
Les, Greece

What is wrong with renting?
Mark, London

My wife and I and our 2 kids ( both under 3 )are having to live with my 2 parents in north Bristol. I earn a pitiful ( in housing terms ) 16k as my wife looks after our children. Prices in Bristol are so astronomical we can only afford areas where the burglars live with you. Our plan to move to the north of England in a few years is soon becoming a non-starter as house prices there are rising so fast even they will be out of our reach by the time we have a deposit. What do we do now? We are seriously considering Canada or Australia since this country has no schemes whatsoever to help first time buyers or families
mihailo, england

I'm not sure that the buy to let thing is the main problem as there is also a shortage of accommodation to rent. The real problem is that we are not building enough (if any!) affordable or council housing, and have not been for quite some time. The tactic of putting families up in bed and breakfasts is not a long term solution and the whole system is pretty close to breaking down. Only when we have a real crisis on our hands and are tripping over even greater numbers of homeless people in the street will the government be forced to take action.
Helen, Exeter, UK

I'm a mortgage adviser in Surrey. In the whole time I have been working here (just over a year now), I have advised only two first-time buyers. In comparison, Buy-to-let mortgages are regular occurrences, and help keep us in business. First-time buyers these days, especially in this area, have to rely on their family to put up a reasonable deposit. This shouldn't have to be the case. In addition, first-time buyers are also stung by the actual costs associated with moving. We recommend that first-time buyers budget for £5000-£6000 to move, to cover stamp duty, legal fees, valuation fees, booking fees, removal fees, land registry & local authority searches... sometimes this is the buyer's entire deposit. Buying a house is an expensive business, and I feel that a major overhaul in the entire process is needed to make the first rung of the ladder that much easier to grab.
Paul, UK

We are far too quick to blame because of our selfish interest. Everyone wants their own home. What is wrong with renting?
arem, London

Talk of 'It was hard in my day' and 'Start low and work your way up the ladder' is all very well if interest rates are at 14%, but in the days of low to zero inflation, there is effectively no housing ladder. The sooner people wake up to this fact the better. Unfortunately this seems beyond the understanding of all but the most financially astute, and these people are generally not typical first-time buyers. Understand this: if you are a first-time-buyer at or near your peak earning potential (not unusual these days) and without the expense of children, the house you buy now will most likely be the house you will still be living in 20 years as interest rates will not eat away the debt, allowing you to further increase your mortgage. Mortgage payments will start high and end high, not decrease over the years as they would have done in the past. Things are very different now than in your parents' generation of high interest rates. Do not be persuaded by them (or anyone else! e) that you can work your way gradually up the ladder. It just doesn't work that way any more. That low interest rates increase 'affordability' is a complete red herring. Look at the price of the house against your potential lifetime earnings, not the monthly payment.
Robert Groom, UK,

The present situation is indeed creating an underclass in the Doncaster region where I live prices have risen by about 50% overall in the last year. This now means that property other than in the more run down areas is no longer affordable. This is exacerbated by the cost of new housing which again is unaffordable. As a single person the hopes of home ownership are rapidly disappearing. The present situation means that I can not compete with couples (joint income buyers), those selling houses at inflated prices and the increasing phenomena of the property developer who pays in cash. Isn't it time the government encouraged the building of affordable new housing and limited the profiteering by the developers?
Hans Gacpar, England

Housing underclass? Put into historical perspective, this sounds a bit hysterical! The current ratio of average wage to average property price is nowhere near the late 1980s level (the last housing boom!). Houses are actually more affordable than they have been in the past. Similarly, in the era before the de-restriction of credit in the early 1980s, it was normal to save for some time to afford the down-payment on a house. In an age of credit-fuelled instant gratification, being unable to afford the house of your choice is being portrayed as an infringement of human rights! ...sometimes you just can't always get what you want!
David, England

In 1993 a decent 3-bed Crosby semi went for 52K. A couple of years ago, identical properties cost 80+K. I'm now down in the SE, on 40+K and I can't even see the ladder, let alone get on it - 2bed terraces are 160K here in Farnborough. I blame buy-to-let and commission-led pricing. Introduce a flat fee for selling and you'd see more realistic market prices, but as long as estate agents are on a percentage, they have a vested interest in talking up the market.
Alex, UK

Do the people who are suggesting taxing Buy-2-Let landlords more heavily not realise that this would only increase the prices of renting, making the situation far worse?
Simon, England

This problem is being made worse by the amount of people owning five or more properties on "buy-to-let" mortgages, many of whom have at least one property empty, but still make a profit as property values go up. If interest rates go up, which they must do one day, these people are going to be seriously hit in the pocket. When they start having to sell their extra properties, the market will crash. There will be a fall in values, possibly 20% in some areas. The only question is when?
David Hulse, UK

I am certainly in this underclass. I work in Bristol, on £18,500 p.a. and have to live 25 miles south (50 mile round trip a day) as I can't afford Bristol's garages, let alone flats or houses. Even though I have a lot of equity on my house, compared to my mortgage, there is no way I could even contemplate moving to Bristol or its suburbs as the prices are way out of my reach. I feel trapped and am not able to reach the next rung of the ladder, even looking long term
Nina Bunton, England

There is an affordable alternative to buying - rent. No risk, plenty of property around, landlords are feeling the pinch - what's your obsession with buying???
Richard Hough, UK

Lots of people ask "what's wrong with renting" Well, firstly, you can't (normally) decorate so your stuck looking at magnolia walls and beige carpets for the rest of your life, secondly, you can't (normally) make any changes - kitchen bathroom, etc. Thirdly, bearing in mind that any "improvement" you make just make your property worth more and ultimately more saleable. Fifthly - living in rented house is like living with a shadow, most landlords make regular "inspections" of your house. it's horrible letting other people check up on how you live all the time. Finally, have you looked at rental prices lately? With silly sales prices landlords have to pay their properties mortgage somehow - that means often paying an extortionate rent each month.
Iain Alexander, UK

Someone mentioned she couldn't afford a house in Bristol on £50k pa. Try looking outside the posh bits!! You'll get a nice 3 bed semi in any of the commuter towns for £150k As for the buy-to-let whingers, I am a BTL landlord, and have refused to pay the asking price on some properties as they were too high - but I bet a private buyer had them! I cannot understand the sums - if I can buy a property (on a mortgage) and make a (small at the moment) profit, why can't people who can afford the rent afford the (lower) mortgage. And yes, I couldn't afford to buy 'til 1990, and then it was tough. I'm now buying my 10th - stop whining and go for it. And the 'We don't want to buy in case there's a crash' people - why? If they prices fall, you haven't lost anything unless you need to sell. If they go up - well work it out.
Martin, Bristol, UK

I am starting to think that some of my generation will never ever own their own home outright, let alone my children.
Charlotte Parmley-Gibbs, Berkshire

I live in an area (Selby) where the commuting is good to Leeds and York as well as having a good train service to London (2 hours). Due to this the house prices have more than doubled in the last year. This is at a time when the mines are closing and there is no employer locally who can pay the wages required to buy a house. My wife and I are fortunate to be earning well but could only afford an entry level house. The problem is that house prices do not reflect the local economy as a large proportion of new housing is being snapped up for the buy to let market. I feel some action is required but would be scared that I could lose the value in my property if this was not done carefully.
Bob , UK

We have two underclasses: People in the South East who cannot afford homes and people in the regions who cannot find work. The solution? Reverse the Thatcherite/Blairite attempt to turn the clock back to relying on markets. They caused dreadful poverty and suffering in the 19th century and they are starting to cause the same kinds of problems now. The imbalance in economic activity and thus the corresponding housing/unemployment problems can only be solved by state intervention in job creation and infrastructure management. Leaving it to the market is bringing disaster!
Charles Moore, Scotland

Like many others my partner and I have a good combined income but are forced to rent until the prices drop. On top of that, all of the new properties being built in Reading are listed as "luxury houses/apartments" with starting prices of £170K for a modest 2 bed flat (£240K in some areas). When will they build properties that the first time buyer can afford after all it wasn't too long ago that a new build was cheaper than an established property. Also having seen the build quality of the new buildings I wonder how much profit the developers are making.
Iain, England

I was brought up in a council house and am the offspring of factory workers. All the ingredients for a member of today's "underclass"? No. Through hard work, and with no financial assistance from the government or anyone else, I have an excellent professional job, own a lovely house and whilst getting myself into this position, still managed to bring up a family. The secret? Start small. Do not expect to buy your ideal house right away. Buy something which needs modernising but not so bad that you cannot get a mortgage and then spend every spare minute and every spare penny on turning the house into your home. You will appreciate it more because it is all your own work and everything you do will increase the value to enable you to climb the property ladder if that is what you want to do. Personally, I do not believe that renting deems anyone to be a member of an "underclass". I do not believe either that it is private landlords who have created this situation. The main reason seems to me to be the present trend of people who choose to live alone.
Jay, UK

I think people should stop complaining. It's not supposed to be easy. I bought my own home through sheer hard work I moved jobs so I could move back in with my parents and save - and I saved every penny. I did a higher degree in my spare time to increase my salary. Finally after 3 years I could afford a house on my own merits. It's still not easy but I know I deserve it - and I didn't complain: I took action.
Claire, UK

I certainly will never be able to buy anywhere - I am a single woman, who earns around 12,000 - 13,000 per year. Any kind of house/flat/garden shed purchase is out of the question for me. And what is more horrifying is that in my area, renting is becoming out of the question. A one bedroom flat STARTS £500 per month. Council tax is around £60. That leaves very little for expenses, other bills - in general, living. I have a constant worry as to how I will keep a roof over my head. I think the question should not be just about purchasing property, but about making sure EVERYONE has access to affordable housing.
Jules , England

Living in the South East with a young family, we do not have a hope in ever being able to purchase. We currently live in a Council house, but prices are so high, that although we have the right-to-buy, we can't even afford it with a discount! We both earn good money and are steadily saving for a deposit, but just when we think we have enough, the goal posts are moved again with price hikes. I am starting to think that some of my generation will never ever own their own home outright, let alone my children.
Charlotte Parmley-Gibbs, Berkshire, England

As an industry insider I understand that the rise in house prices is because of a 30 year under-supply of new housing being brought to the market. If you think it is a problem now, wait another 5 years when impact of under-supply will really show itself. Consider this as the last generation of new home owners.
Dave Lewis, UK

We live in the south of England, our combined salaries are 22k, we managed to buy our first house 2 years ago, it's a nice 2 bed semi in the suburbs, even on our salaries we are comfortable and could accommodate a substantial interest rate increase. Why are people earning twice our salary complaining they can't get in to the housing market? Be realistic with your first property, hardly anybody buys one house and stays with it for life.
Richard, England

Have people forgotten how to save. To hear people bemoaning the fact that they cannot get on the property ladder with an annual income of 46 to 50K is ridiculous. Give up the booze, the fags, the eating out, the car, the foreign holidays etc, life's luxuries not necessities, and put it into a savings account. Suffer a 'diminished lifestyle', for a few years to accumulate a sensible deposit and then buy if you must. We now seem to be surrounded by people who think because they want something they have an automatic right to have it. If this requires any sacrifice on their part someone else, government, society, rich parents blah blah blah, is at fault. Sorry but I have absolutely no sympathy for their plight. If they are an 'underclass' it is by choice not compulsion. Social and subsidised housing should be for rental by those who cannot afford to get on the property ladder, not purchased by Thatcher's children.
Mike Griffiths, UK

As a single person, I have found it very difficult to get my fingertips onto "the ladder" due to trying to save the 8K required for a deposit/fees and paying rent! However, I have purchased a 50% share in a flat, the remainder being held by a housing association. This is the only way that I could afford "my own place" and would recommend it to anyone else having problems purchasing.
Mike, UK

There are some very silly comments by people. Ban buy to let! Government should do something! Change [read increase] taxes! I'm sure the majority of these people are only annoyed they are not the ones making the on paper profit. On the other hand they are not the ones taking any risk either. Nothing ventured nothing gained.
Mike, England

Most property owners have had to work their way up from the bottom ¿ don't be snobby about it

I work in local government and specialise in housing. There are not enough houses being built and as a result house prices are being pushed up because demand is outweighing supply and its a sellers market. In Warwickshire the average house price in June 2003 was £151,000 which means a person would have to be an average income of £43,000 to a get a standard mortgage. In Warwickshire a number of Councils have not been given any grants for social housing this year which will result in less affordable housing being built. There is already a backlog of affordable housing illustrated by housing needs surveys and now the demand is increasing as first time buyers cannot get on the market. Planners need stronger powers to negotiate with developers to secure more affordable housing. There is a lot of Nymbsm towards affordable housing there is a need to re-educate people that affordable housing is not just for social misfits. If you look to London new schemes for example Imperial Wharf in Fulham they are building 50% affordable housing to meet this high demand. The situation is going to get worse before it gets better.
Heidi Antrobus, England

Stop whinging and moaning. Buying a home is not a right. I have just bought a place after 5 years of saving and I'm not asking the government to help me out. People seem to think that they should have the right to live where they want. I had to buy in an area that was not my first choice. You don't complain about market prices for other items like cars
James, England

My partner and I earn 50k a year. We have struggled and failed to enter the South East housing market at the lowest level for the past 2 years. We simply cannot complete with homeowners that make 3k a month on their property and can put down an enormous deposit. We are now playing a waiting game for housing prices to fall to a respectable level and allow us to buy a property we can grow into and actually "live" in for a long period. There will be a turn back to people buying houses for "homes" not for "business". If the crash doesn't happen this year, it will happen next year. We are waiting and watching.
Colin, UK

The average family on the average income should be able to afford the average house - until we get back to a situation where this is true again there will be problems. A home should be somewhere to live, not a capital investment!
Suzi, Wales

It is not just that housing is unaffordable but the other option of renting is unattractive due to the weak legislation. Landlords can demand any rent they like knowing that they can easily evict the tenant should they not agree with the increase. Families especially cannot possibly live with this degree of uncertainty.
Tim Craig, UK

What is wrong with renting? It seems that very few people complaining about being part of the "underclass" are actually homeless. Surely possession of a home is the important thing. The fact that they are not in a position to be able to invest in the property market means that they will have to look to other investment vehicles for their savings. Many investment opportunities are only open to a defined few and exclude sectors of society. That is a fact of life in a capitalist society. Some complain that they can only afford properties in less desirable areas ¿ I and most of my property owning friends all started off owning properties in grotty areas and over the years have slowly moved into more better locations. Most property owners have had to work their way up from the bottom ¿ don't be snobby about it . If you really can't bear to live in such an area, buy somewhere cheaper (locally or in a cheaper region), rent it out and then rent somewhere you want to live. This way you can get a foot on the property ladder without compromising your quality of life.

HOW TO FIX THE HOUSING MARKET: Tax the buy-to-let landlords, to reduce these purchases. This will also make a higher supply of houses as buy-to-let landlords sell up. With the tax money generated build more affordable housing.
Joel, England

The problem is a lack of Supply. In the UK your house is seen as an investment, Thatcher started this (I'm not saying good or bad, just stating the facts), by selling council houses, and encouraging every person to buy their home.

I am a voluntary member of the 'underclass'
Paul, UK

However the supply is not growing, and more people want houses, due to more divorces, people living longer, and people not getting married as early. So in effect all that is happening is the existing stock of housing is being bidded up in price. The only way to get out of this is to increase the supply, to accommodate demand, I see no reason not to try more tower blocks, but in a modern desirable style, not the dreadful concrete blocks we had here in Sheffield until recently. But ways like that to get lots of housing on a small area would be good, especially for pensioners - proximity to others in a similar situation, easier to live with than a house to maintain, etc.

The current interest rate scenario doesn't really help the market either (in terms of first time buyers and low incomes). Interest rates are so low, the amount you can borrow is much higher, but the effect is the same for everyone, it doesn't mean now everyone can afford to buy, just that the price gets bid up some more. It's also bad for the economy. With labour now virtually immobile because of house prices, people cannot move to take jobs in other areas, damaging our flexibility.

I am currently a student (economics), and terrified of what prices will be like when I attempt to buy a house. I can see myself renting for 8-10 years before finally having enough for a deposit to out on a house, as the price escalation will increase due to unpopularity of building on green belt land for politicians (but with so many people in such a small place, we have to do something).
Anthony, Sheffield, England

Sure there is an underclass, and it isn't dependent on salary. I, like many of the respondents to this column, earn a healthy salary, and in many ways I am comfortably off, but I cannot afford a mortgage for a rabbit hutch. At the same time my landlord owns at least 3 homes including the one he ordinarily lives in. A lot of the housing shortage would vanish if these social leeches were made do dispose of their multiple places of 'residence'.
Bob, GB

Property is the new .com bubble and will burst sooner or later. Then I might actually be able afford a home of my own.
Simon, England

Me and my husband have been renting a one bedroomed flat in Oxford for 4 years while we saved enough for a deposit to buy a house. Saving 2/3s of our wages each month has been tough at times but we have done without a lot of luxuries in order to secure a property in a nice part of Oxfordshire. Neither of us earn a vast amount of money but we were both committed to buying a house as we have now paid out almost £30,000 in rent over this period. Why put that money in our landlord's pocket when we can easily afford to get a mortgage. Yes renting is less risky but you are always paying in to someone else's pension fund!
Sarah, Oxford, UK

Remember that the Government does very well out of a buoyant housing market with grossly inflated house prices. Not only does it receive Stamp duty per house move averaging at least £2000, the it has also during its term abolished MIRAS and the local authority social housing grant.
David Blakemore, UK

I find all these comments very encouraging, so many articulated well educated people are all saying they can't afford to buy a house except in run down unpleasant areas. What a wonderful way to re-generate these places if they could all just move there.
Aaron, UK

I am a voluntary member of the 'underclass'. I understand a boom when I see one and also recognize the inevitability of the coming collapse. I'd like to thank those selfless, brave souls who are bankrupting themselves with credit so that I can enjoy the fruits of their labours for 50% discounts in a couple of years' time. Thanks guys!
Paul, UK

At this point in time I can see that I am going to have to rent for years, even decades before I can afford to buy in my area. I am renting now, and currently on a waiting list for social rented housing. The housing association have told me I can expect to wait years before I qualify for any form of housing. Long-term private renting is out - prohibitively expensive and a waste of money better used as a deposit for a mortgage. Intervention is required for decent hard-working individuals who want to earn there way onto the property ladder.
Lee, UK

All I want is to be able to get a foothold and as a 22 year old graduate professional this seems IMPOSSIBLE!
Richard Connelly, UK

I think the British are far too obsessed with owning their own property. I have recently rented a 4 bed detached house which owners could not sell at their reduced price of £ 335k. I am paying £ 850 pm rent, on something that would cost me double in mortgage payments! It is a no-brainer. I do intend to buy when prices have fallen, a few years from now. All those "average Joe's" who are buying to let, are buying at the peak of the market - just as they sank all their money into Technology funds when they were at their peak. Bring on the crash!
Alex, UK

I moved to Australia from the UK a year ago - and believe it or not, the exact same debate about housing affordability, especially for low income earners, is happening here. We chose Brisbane due to its relative cheapness, but even here average prices have doubled in the past 2 years. Our original choice was Sydney, but an ex-council tiny two bedroom apartment will set you back more than AU$700K, making it even more expensive than London when compared with wages. So you see, this is not a phenomenon unique to the UK.
PG, Australia/ ex UK

I live in Kent and have been trying to locate a first property for my Daughter. If you are lucky you might find a 1 bedroom flat for £100K. The salary multipliers for a mortgage on her and her partners salary might give them 60K. Renting is not an option as rents are virtually the same as taking out a £100K mortgage over 30 years. What are the options available for the younger generation in the very expensive south east. Moving to a lower priced area of the country is not possible as they would have to find 2 new jobs and most mortgage lenders and landlords require continuity of employment before considering them. They are caught in a classic catch 22 situation with no way out
Graham, UK

We need to stop moaning and shift our cultural viewpoint through clever community focused architecture.
Barry, UK
The answer is to ban 2nd home ownership, having lived in Cornwall and Wales and seen the impact 2nd home ownership has on the communities and the cost of home ownership it seems crazy to allow people to own more than one property. Taxing second homes will not deter it as those who can afford 2nd homes are most able to pay the extra tax. Let the affluent keep their money in the bank and give the lower paid people chance to own one home. I own (mortgaged) my own home, but it took all my 15 years of savings and Forces leaving gratuity to get an acceptable deposit together to buy a house in a town 30 miles from where I work. As for renting, this is not a solution, what happens in 30 some years when I come to retire and I can no-longer afford the ever increasing rent? Homeless? Retirement home?
Andy M, uk

I only earn £20kpa, but fortunately I bought a house 4 yrs ago which has since trebled in value! There is no way that I could have afforded it now. My brother and his fiancée earn more than myself and cannot afford anywhere and are having to apply for housing association help to start off their new married life. It is so unfair for those starting out, some help needs to be given.
CL, England

Apparently there are over 500,000 empty properties in the UK at present. The government need to reverse those stupid tax breaks like reduce poll tax for empty properties, and maybe not allow mortgage interest as a deductible item against rent.
Alex, UK

The British need to lighten up - take a leaf out of the book of the French. A recent programme about property on BBC2 spoke to a British couple in France, who were chatting to their French neighbour about a house that had come on for sale at about £10,000. The Brits were commenting on how cheap it was, whereas their French neighbour thought it was expensive because "it costs more than a new car". That really sums up the difference in attitudes and why the French have a far superior quality of life.
Aleks, UK

While I don't deny there are people who really do struggle to find affordable housing, one of the main contributors to the problem is our lifestyle. I bet a large number of people who say they're 'struggling' are really spending their income on things like mobile phones, satellite TV, eating/drinking out, new cars, holidays and clothes - rather than saving up for the deposit on a house!
Alan Willis, UK

The Tories should never have sold off the council houses without building more. Where are people supposed to live when renting a place costs more than the price of a mortgage?
Alison Boots, UK

Why do people assume that they have a right to simply own a house "just because they want one"? I am not a homeowner, and would LIKE to own a house, but I can't afford to at the moment. I'm not going to blame the Government and I'm certainly not expecting some special incentive to make owning my first house easier. Why should I? I shall continue to save until I can afford a house that I want to buy.People should start remembering that they don't NEED a house, it's only NICE to own one.
Paul Groves, UK

The big problem with the UK housing market is population density, we are one of the most densely populated landmasses on the planet yet we still have view that we should all live in detached houses with acres of gardens. Well I'm afraid there is not enough space without turning every last inch of the UK into one mega-suburban mass. Surely we should look at intelligent ways of increasing the amount of people per square mile by building upwards. Not the concrete jungles of the 60's and 70's but high density community focused housing. We need to stop moaning and shift our cultural viewpoint through clever community focused architecture.
Barry, London, UK

In short get the government, social fantasists and nimbies out of the way and lets see some more house building. That ultimately is the only thing that will stabilise house prices.
Andy Mayer, UK

I can't help but wonder if the so called housing shortage is caused by a change in expectation. These days young people want to leave their parents home and buy a place of their own. This suggests that many "affordable" houses are occupied by single people. In the past couples waited until they were married or in a stable relationship before considering house purchase.
Ken, England

I'm very worried by the current situation. I live in the South East and there's no way I could afford to buy *anything* on my £20K salary. What's even more scary is that I can't afford to rent a place of my own either. To all those people who are asking what's wrong with renting? Well, nothing, if you can afford a place to yourself, but how long would you like to share a house with others? I just want to be able to afford to rent a place to myself!
Claire, UK

I can't beleive some of the comments such as "whats wrong with renting anyway?" Apart from living with the tasteless decor, the routine inspections, no pets, no children and " that type of damp is not our responsibilty" attitude you get from most from landlords. Working hard to pay off someone elses mortgage is not much fun, nor is trying to save for a deopsit when over half your wages goes on paying the rent. After 3 years of looking, I have finally managed to find somewhere to buy not ideal, but a step on the ladder. If I ever am in a position to be able to let out my property, I will make sure the ad reads parents & pets welcome. At the end of the day where you live should be your home-including any creature comforts!
Victoria, Somerset, Uk

I've started praying on a regular basis
Kes, UK
If you feel that you are in the 'underclass', take a long term view. For every boom there is a bust. Whilst properties are out of reach at present, it wont last forever, remember the 80's housing boom! New housing has been sanctioned by the government (a little late perhaps), but that will swell housing supply. Once house prices level or start falling, many of the private landlords will sell up and again housing supply will outstrip the housing demand. In a couple of years, there will be some bargains to be had and the underclass will be able to afford the pick whilst the recent buyers will be contending with large mortgages. Bide your time, do not fret and do not buy!
Nigel, UK

People need to realise houses are vastly overvalued, particularly in the South. People with decent jobs can only get ridiculous mortgages. We've entered a period where people think houses will always go up in value. Sound a bit like buying shares before the crash?! People buying to let now are already jumping on a bandwagon which is starting to accelerate downhill.
malcolm, London

I'm puzzled as to how people can "afford to rent but not to buy". In most areas in which a first time buyer would be expected to buy (i.e. not the posh-est suburb you can find) rental prices are not too far from mortgage prices. Logically it has to be this way because landlords must cover their costs! Buy something a little smaller than what you're renting, and hey presto! The people that "wait for the prices to come down" could well just find themselves waiting forever and worse off in the long run.
Simon, UK

Are people serious about banning landlords owning property. Isn't that the same thing that Chairman Mao's communist party implemented. Perhaps the same people would accept multiple families sharing their house too or their second car being seized by the state
Robert, England

Whilst undoubtedly there is a problem with affordable housing for first time buyers wanting to get on to the property ladder, particularly for those on more modest earnings, the comments of Mike Griffiths go to the heart of the problem in a large number of cases. We live in a commercially driven 'I want it all and I want it now' society and people are not prepared to take the hard, responsible road to property ownership - do without. Do without the new 'status' car every three years, the frequent annual holidays and all the other 'essential' consumer goods and save for the most important investment of your life. Certainly it is rubbish for people on £40k + to moan about not being able to get onto the property ladder.
cliff, England

I just don't understand some people's comments on here, stating that with combined incomes of 46k and 39k, they still can't afford a house, that's rubbish, these people are just not educated on modern mortgage products. My partner and I had a combined salary of 36k and a deposit of 7k, we still managed to buy a nice 2 bed place in west london last year for £120k and is only valued at 150k today. stop thinking you must start on the housing ladder with a big 3 bed semi !!

I don't know why people get worried about the house prices - they should just sit back and wait as everything will change when interest rates start to rise.
Bram, UK

I am in my mid 30s and have bought a property every year since 2000. I make about £50K p.a. and I scrimp and save so that I can continue to purchase more properties to provide for my pension. Nobody is going to provide me with a secure pension so I better do something myself! You can call me a greedy investor and blame people like me for the housing problem, but I'm investing for my future when no doubt, many of the moaners and whingers here will be complaining about their pension underclass status.

I have read some of the people comments and am astonished those people who are on high wages £45k + can not get a place. I earn below £17,0000 and have brought myself a two bedroom flat in a nice area in Essex. The going rate for 2 bedroom flats in my area is which is not cheap at all! Yes I had to save for a large deposit and I would have preferred a two/three bedroom house but I made do with what I could afford at the time. With the interest rates at a low I pay a reasonable monthly repayment. I am not struggling to keep up repayments on my Flat.
Katie , England

I've just bought my first flat with my boyfriend in Aberdeen. We earn around 20K a year each, and have spent a year saving for a 5% deposit (the flat was just over 100K). Our mortgage will be less than our current rent. We haven't recieved a penny from either of our families, so it isn't impossible. I realise that it is a completely different story in the south, but no one is forcing people to live there.

If you're tired of rip off Britain and stupid prices for tiny little houses look at taking your skills abroad. In the US, Canada or Australia houses are far more affordable, and you'll find a house that is big enough for both you and your stuff. Compare: £300K in Northampton, UK, buys a new but small 4 bed detached house. £300k in Atlanta, USA, buys a 1 acre estate with a 5 bed/4 bathroom house, with pool, in a nice area of the suburbs. Just waiting for my visa...
Gary Carter, UK

Lets put a maximum price on houses.
Rob, UK

Well said the correspondants who complain about the cost of renting. It's ridiculous. I could let out the flat I live at in Huddersfield for TWICE the mortgage I pay on it. People on 40/50k p/a should think themselves lucky. They are in the minority earning that much. They should try looking for a house on a low income, and by that I mean the 10/14k pa wages that are paid around here (if you are lucky). The amount of correspondants that think because they have a degree, this somehow qualifies them for a house is amazing!
James, UK

Renting is fine for now but, being 24, I won't get a pension or be looked after by my children when I am old. We are obsessed with property purchase because the alternatives (pensions or stock) don't look like they will pay our rent when we can't work.
R Jeffs, UK

If you want socialism go to China, we are in a capitialist country and the market makes the rules. Cannot afford to buy? Get a better paying job.
Sean, UK

Privately rented accomodation is not affordable - it is more than a mortgage and quite often sub-standard. I should know I've tried it again and again. The cost of buying is massively out of reach, unless you are on a huge salary. For those of us who earn a reasonable wage we have two options live at home for ever or pray for a massive drop in housing prices. I've started praying on a regular basis!
Kes, England

Why does Ken,England, seem to think that to be eligible to buy a house, you have to be married or in a stable relationship? I am single and a "young person".If I wish to live away from my parents and can afford to do so then that is my decision. Keep antiquated notions to yourself please.

I agree with the comments about the south east. If there wasn't such an obsession with locating businesses around London there would be less of a problem. I am one of those people who have had to gravitate down south to find work. Who would of thought that a professional with several years experience can not even think about buying a one bedroom flat? I don't think the older generation realise how bad it has got, I had to get the local property guide out to show my parents why I was still renting.
James, Surrey, England

The jealousy amongst some people astounds me. When 30-odd year olds are complaining about house prices for a starter home now, what were they doing 3-4 years ago when prices were a lot cheaper? Living at home with mummy doing the washing/ironing on next to no rent laughing at their mates that were paying out for a mortgage. A little less money spent on booze and boy racer cars would have got you a decent house back then. You chose not to, so live with it (and your parents).
Nick Headley, SE England

Why did we sell off the majority of our Social Housing stock? My hunch is that we are in the greed phase of the "greed/fear" cycle that free market capitalism depends on. We're reaping the whirl wind about now!!
BT, Redditch, England

In the last boom my 3 bed-semi cost almost 6 times my annual salary. During the slump in 94/95, it was less than 4 times my salry. Currently it is back to 6 times my salary. The current boom and discussion was exactly the same as during the last boom. Prices will fall again, and housing will be more affordable.
Alex, UK

I recently bought through co ownership. A 3 bedroom terrace in an undesireable area of Belfast set me back £62,000. I bought half of this and rent the other half. I cycle the 8 minutes to work and have a good quality of life. I earn £12,000.
anon, belfast

Learn to save
Niamh, UK

Having recently finished Uni with large debts, I find myself in a depressing situation. The current housing crisis is driving a lot of young people into serious debt whilst making landlords very rich. Renting property is 'dead money' and in the long run is creating an underclass. Many people I know are considering moving abroad in order to afford decent housing.
Liam Craig, Taunton, England

It's quite simple - move out of the South! In the Peak District, we've got fabulous views, affordable housing and cities such as Manchester and Sheffield within easy commutable distance. You must be mad to want to live in London.
Stephen, UK

There is an unseen cost in human terms as well. I know couples who work away all week in order to pay the mortgage and see each other at weekends, and others who have given up any hope of having children because to lose one income would mean losing the house and having no home to offer a child. So stress levels and divorce rates rise.
Kathy, UK

It is absurd. I bought my two bedroom house near Gatwick 12 years ago for £40,000 when I was a single parent and working as a nurse. At the time it was a stretch but good to have my own place. now it is worth £140,000 and I cannot imagine any nurse, let alone single parent being able to afford it. The working classes have been priced out of village life and are being forced into towns and cities to find cheap rent. Meanwhile the countryside is fast becoming a playground for rich business people who care nothing about country life while the people who form the backbone of the country are marginalised. The sooner we have a massive property crash the better.
Louisa Morgan, UK

I am a scientist who has spent a lot of time looking at the housing market. My message to first time buyers is 'take heart', their will be a correction. In Britain their are essentially 2 main investment markets - shares and property. With the collapse of high tech stocks and then the general market investors have become nervous redistributing their risk into property pushing up house prices. The general public have followed suit partly fuelled by concerns over pension issues and partly by greed. The problem is this - either we are optimistic about the future, in which case both property and stock prices should be high; or we are not in which case both will be historically low. The current imbalence does not reflect this long term trend because markets are not rational and so tend to overshoot as peoples' herd instinct takes over. The current imbalance between stocks and property indexes will correct, it has too even your estate agent will tell you that. So bide your time all and wait. With the current low interest rate/low inflation climate do not buy unless you are absolutely sure that the house you are purchasing is a house that you will want to live in for the next 20 yrs.
James, England

A couple of points to clarify. BTL landlords are taxed - rental income at the marginal rate of income tax (probably 40%); unlike a principal residence, a gain on a BTL property disposal falls within the scope of CGT (40%); and regressive stamp duty is also payable at up to 4% of a property's value. The comment about a low inflation environment is absolutely spot on - inflation will not reduce the real value of debt as it did in times past. Even worse, interest rates are likely to increase over the next 2 years as the economy picks up in order to dampen inflation and keep it within a reasonable band but it is unlikely that wage inflation will be sufficient to reduce the value of the debt. Sensible to borrow up to 5x your income with minimal deposit?? Finally, will people please start taking responsibility for themselves and not look to the government to sort everything out? Save up, pay reasonable prices for property (or rent until you can afford it) and be realistic about objectives and finances. A few years ago, people were whining about the dramatic fall in house prices...
Nick, UK

I do not see too many comments critising the banks. It is about time that 90% loans were banned. If thout time that 90% loans were banned. If the government passed legislation to restrict mortgages to 50% of the house value then the prices would drop very fast.
Dee, UK

It is a good job my girlfriend has a New Zealand passport, so we can emigrate in a year or two.
Stephen, UK

I think these sort of comments are ridiculous. My partner was on 13K per annum when he afforded his first place a year ago (a nice little flat). He did not complain that he could not afford it and did not expect others to help him. He simply saved up his money and did without for a few months while he made sure he could afford it. There is no reason why the rest of the country can't do this except for the fact that they like spending money on alcohol, cigarettes and expensive living. Learn to save!
Niamh, England

My partner and I earn in excess of £50k between us. We bought a semi detached house fronting onto the street with no parking and only a very small back garden 18 months ago using all our combined savings and equity. The expense of mortgage, student loans and general high cost of living in this country (ie petrol and food) means that we never hit the end of the month without going into the red. With no surplus cash to put away towards holidays, bithdays or Christmas we never have the opportunity to escape the stress of every day life and work. Consequently we work harder, get stressed, argue more and if we were to split up neither of us would be able to afford to buy again on our own!
Victoria, UK

Woe is those who have paid silly money for grotty property. In my 37 years I've witnessed two property boom and busts. Boom for sure now, but wait for the repo's come Bust. Who in their right minds is eager to pay 140k for a studio (Croydon), it's utter lunacy.
stewart millward, England

I think people should stop complaining and start focusing on what they can do to help themselves. Eat at home, make your lunch, get pay as you go phones (and use it only when you really need to), cut down on your drinking/cigarettes, and never pay interest on anything apart from your mortgage. If you have no desires to save now, you only have yourself to blame. I could buy a car now, but I choose not to. It¿s all about discipline.
Mark, England

My husband and I lost our home in the last recession. After all this time we have only just been able to clear the shortfall debt left after our Home was sold at Auction for well under it's market value. I can only hope that this does'nt happen to lots of other people. Although my husband and I now earn around £40k we cannot afford a house and to be perfectly honest neither of us would pay the inflated prices that we are seeing at the moment. In the area we live properties are at least £100k over priced. No chance!!!
Deborah, England

I can't believe that Barry from London calls the UK "one of the most densely populated landmasses on the planet". In Macau and Monaco there are more than 15,000 people per square km, and in Hong Kong and Singapore far in excess of 5,000. In contrast population density in England is 380 per square kilometre.
Tommy, Docklands, London

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