I love my house. It’s not mine exactly belonging as it does to my landlord but for a year I’ve lived here with my family and we’ve settled into it. Our furniture fills each room; our clutter covers the floors; our dinner plates stand stacked in the cupboard. Already we have history here. We helped our son hobble through the front door on crutches, relieved to be home; relieved he was still with us. Through the kitchen window we watched a fledgling finding its wings in the garden. Teeth have been retrieved from under pillows in a couple of bedrooms. First notes blown from a flute in the dining room. We inhabit this place ivy-like spreading ourselves across carpet, up wooden stairs, into low-lying lino filled and high up cobwebbed corners.
I love this place actively. I think of it with such fondness because I’m keenly aware that there are no guarantees we will be here in a year. That insecurity sits poorly with private renters like me particularly when they’d rather be and perhaps crucially, feel they ought to be holding a mortgage. Luckily, it seems there are enough in this situation who are young, articulate, filled with a sense of entitlement and vociferous to make us a force to be reckoned with. Consequently, it seems the inability of a large sector of our population to get a foot on the housing ladder due to high property prices and extortionate rents has turned into a key issue at this election and major parties appear to be desperate to outdo one another with the policy that gets the votes. But we are not the only group affected by this crisis, there are others who we really can’t afford to forget.
People like those living in privately rented accommodation, temporary housing, hostels or on the street who are very unlikely to be in a financial position to buy a property even if prices crash or the government gives lots of support. People who not long ago would have been eligible for and in receipt of council or social housing. However, due to a dreadful combination of not building enough and allowing tenants to buy their council housing and not replacing them, these sectors are not able to house all who need access to this tenure. Instead they are paying high private rents perhaps with help from housing benefit or living in one room in a hostel or indeed being entirely without a place to live. This situation falls tragically short of council housing provision which offered those on lower incomes the security of a home which was theirs at a fair rent. Where are the pre-election promises made to ensure that these people get a fair go too? Maybe they are easier to ignore, being devoid of a sense of entitlement, less confident in their arguments and not vociferous enough to have grabbed the attention of the main political parties? I can’t help thinking though that without more council and social housing provision, all of the other policies proposed for First Time Buyers are counterproductive and most importantly, unethical.
Today I’m embarrassed to be in a position where I feel I’m being courted by politicians who see me as part of a group who will sway from left to right on the basis of whether we get a stab at buying a house or not. We are not that fickle. Fairness and equality are what I’m looking for and that means an acknowledgement that this housing crisis is not just about First Time Buyers but instead requires a commitment to build enough houses for all tenures, so at the end of this we all have a place to call home.