Families spend half their income on rent

Many British families now spend half their income on rent. A new FindaProperty.com survey claims the average British rent has now climbed to almost £900 a month. Almost 50% of the average tenant's net income. An absolutely shocking situation, meaning less money for the basics - let alone saving for a deposit and pension. How did we get to this?

Simply not affordable

The seeds were part-sown by Margaret Thatcher's Housing Act, which paved the way for mass home ownership for council house tenants. Which meant fewer affordable social housing for rent. This had a disproportionate effect on low-paid workers in particular: the hundreds of thousands of people who weren't eligible for social housing, but who hadn't the means, thanks to soaring prices, for a deposit.

Especially now when a £30,000 deposit is needed for a property in a very ordinary area. And it's the saving for a deposit, says David Hollingworth of London & Country Mortgage brokers, that's key. "The actual running costs of a mortgage are often lower than renting. But because we've fewer first time buyers now, that has driven up rents."

Cheaper in the long run?

Catch-22. The average British wage is around £26,000. Mortgage lenders will lend, generally, up to four times your income, and some will lend more. But that still only gets you to £104,000 on a £26k salary. And most will insist on at least a 10% deposit, though 15% is more typical.

But if you can find the 15% (or £15,600) deposit then you can, in theory, get a house. If you can find one for around the £120,000 mark, that is.

Crucially, it would mean mortgage costs would be around £520 a month. Probably less than you are paying in rent. But this won't be achievable for the thousands who earn less than the average wage, or who are having enough problems paying for rent, food and all the basic before being saving for long-term goals. Especially hard when inflation is eating deeper into wages.

Vote winner

Earlier this year, Nationwide building society director Matthew Wyles claimed he would rather lend 75% loan-to-value to a buy-to-let investor than a first-time buyer at 95% LTV. In other words, the market remains very much skewed in favour of the landlord, and those who bought some while back.

The alternative is to build a lot more affordable council homes, but the political will to do this is not there, despite the housing crisis being a huge drain on the economy (all that rent cash going to landlords who just sit on it). Some politicians are too old and, in many cases, too well-off to be personally exposed to the problem. A lack of will.

But it means increasing amounts of financially insecure and angry people are locked out of the housing market. It's thought around 4.6m UK adults have delayed starting a family because of a lack of affordable housing. That's a lot of potential votes.
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