This is such a typical headline directed at homeowners, that blessed group within society, from The Guardian and, often enough, other newspapers as well, be they broadsheets or tabloids: Should we worry about a crash of the housing market? Let’s all take a deep breath. It’s designed to appeal to the majority of middle and upper class people in at least their 40s – in short, those who own property. Yet millions in Britain today have no hope at all of ever becoming homeowners. They are shut out of the world of worry over mortgage rates and equity and when to sell (the latter usually being just before a massive drop in prices, effectively meaning people are looking for the ideal time to con their fellow citizens to gain maximum profit).
There’s not much talk in the press of the fact that nearly all landlords operating in the UK today are rogue, if by ‘rogue’ we mean on the make, unwilling or slow to do repairs, overcharging and excluding people who aren’t in full-time employment or have a less than absolutely perfect credit rating, all while refusing to allow tenants to do anything to make their homes actual homes (“You want to put up a picture? No!”).
And then there are the homeless, who get platitudes and other hypocrisies uttered daily by many who own their own homes – “it’s awful that anyone should have to live like that”, “it shouldn’t be happening in Britain today”, “oh, I must drop a tin of beans in the food bank box at the supermarket every few months so I can feel good about myself”, all while agonising over which tin of Dulux to buy or what carpet, blissfully and sometimes wilfully ignorant of the fact that millions will never be able to choose paint or floor coverings.
“Should we worry…”? Well, it’s a question that almost everyone under the age of 30, a significant slice under 40 and even quite a few of us in our 50s don’t give two shits about. Not. Our. Problem. We have problems of our own. In fact, under the current system that promotes profit and greed over community and fairness and wealth redistribution, the only hope for those stuck in rented accommodation who would really like to have a stake in their homes is for those who enjoy home ownership at present to take a deep and lasting hit to their finances as tied up in bricks and mortar. Well, it’s that or hope for some comfortably-off family member leaving them a house in their will (that’s if social services don’t force its sale to pay for dementia care before they die).
Ultimately, though, a crash in house prices in the short term ropes in more people for more sustained misery, with very few of those locked out from home ownership being in a position to swoop in, scoop up and enjoy a roof they can call their own over their heads.
Up or down, the preoccupation with house prices is a sickness of capitalism. It needs to be cured. No mainstream party offers a radical enough pill to cure this disease. They seek to alleviate the worst symptoms, if anything at all. The rich would riot quicker than the poor if anyone suggested an end to private home ownership, to the mass nationalisation of all current and future housing stock, in effect creating ‘council houses for all, rich and poor alike’.
It’s impossible as things stand to convince the Tories of the need for rent caps, or to even acknowledge that we have an urgent need to embark upon a mass building programme of social housing. Everyone should at least be able to agree that we all deserve to have secure homes, be they rented, mortgaged or owned outright. But no. The Tory government certainly doesn’t see things that way. Quite a few ‘ordinary’ citizens agree with the old Etonians, buying into the idea that if you haven’t earned it, you don’t deserve it, and if you’re not earning enough, you need to work harder. Brutality and an absence of compassion and empathy have been presented as virtues in some quarters since at least the 1980s.
So, given the great folly in which we all live, namely arse-end capitalist society limping along to who knows where, the answer to the question, “Should we worry..?” is, for increasing numbers of us, going to be, “I don’t give a toss about this, because I’m denied access to the club”. Sooner or later, this and other resentment-creating inequalities and injustices will boil over into unpleasantness; already the divide between the haves and have-nots has deepened and widened after eight years of crushing austerity. We really are going backwards, not to some imagined halcyon days of empire but to the darkest corners of history.
If we are to ever create a truly stable and just society, we have to lessen the divides, not make them worse. If we don’t, then history, time and again, has shown us what will happen: things will only get uglier and times ever more dangerous for all of us, homeowners or not.
Andrew’s latest book, myfibromyalgia: one man’s experience of living with chronic illness, is out now in all Amazon store territories the world over. The ebook is £5.99 and the paperback £8.99. UK Amazon link.