Comment: the youth vote means we might finally get some housing hope
PUBLISHED: 16:02 13 June 2017 | UPDATED: 16:02 13 June 2017
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Now politicians will have to take notice of what young people want, including affordable homes to rent or buy and a property market that is held to account
It’s a strange time to be writing about property in London. It’s an even stranger time to be writing it from the perspective of a young person.
Freshly 25, I’m a card carrying member of the cohort the right wing media is now so keen to denigrate for voting for chaos in return for ‘free stuff’.
As a young person it can be hard to trust your instincts. This was only my second general election. I was already a Labour member and a middle of the road Corbyn fan – not quite at Momentum activist levels, but keen on posting pro-Corbyn memes and proclaiming him ‘the absolute boy’ on Twitter.
But six weeks ago he was supposed to lose so badly the party would take a decade to recover.
Every property person I spoke to assured me that it would be an easy Conservative victory. They were kind and not too condescending, but the consensus was the script was already written.
The message from the mainstream media was much the same, if more aggressive. My youthful idealism would be no match for the sensible option of strength and stability.
Except May’s manifesto was a washout, whilst the Labour party offering shone, from its accessible and attractive format to its genuine and well thought out content. The pundits have had to eat their words – one quite literally, and on live TV.
Even though Corbyn isn’t in No. 10 just yet, the whole of Parliament will have to sit up and take notice of the country’s young people for the first time.
Any party that wants to curry favour with the new youth vote will have to address housing. That means building more affordable homes for London, and sorting out a rental sector that’s been running riot.
No party has presented a clear and well thought out solution to the housing crisis, but only Labour has the framework to think outside our current stalling system.
The current housing market is so divorced from supply and demand that it would make even the staunchest neo-liberal capitalist blush.
Rather than build homes that young Londoners could buy, or even aspire to buy, developers have stacked up towers of middling-luxury, low ceilinged bank vaults with bedrooms to lure overseas investors whose intelligence they underestimated. They’ve wildly misjudged the market.
Overseas investors with the kind of cash to stash in an investment property aren’t going to fritter it away on a new build property in a less desirable part of London.
Whilst 30-somethings on Canary Wharf salaries have to turn to their parents to scrape together a deposit the developers are chasing after the chimera of the ‘millionaire millennial’.
In north London we’re less susceptible to this folly and the quality of our new build stock is reassuringly high, but when the flipping economy finally flops we’ll still feel the effects.
Meanwhile the shocks to the pound could encourage a handful of overseas investors to drive an aggressive bargain in the upper echelons of the market (we’re talking the £5 million plus bracket here), but a few sales on the Bishops Avenue won’t undo the deadlock on the property ladder.
Every month house price indexes show that asking prices are still climbing, but transaction levels are falling. Thanks to the amount of overseas investment in London property we won’t see a dramatic crash, but there is going to have to be a period of painful readjustment whilst property owners come to terms with the fact that they might not get quite as much for their house anymore.
It’s not going to be fun, but this doesn’t have to be about millennials vs baby boomers. Those parents and grandparents with property are in just as precarious a position, as all those Bank of Mum and Dad stories show. And how will we young people pay for their pensions when we’ve spent all our income on rent?
But if everyone has a chance at an affordable and comfortable place to live, everyone will benefit.
For the first time I feel like I can afford to hope for kinder, smarter politics.
Who knows, by the time the next election rolls around, I might even start hoping for home ownership.