Housing today is very expensive, yet landlords in Italy and Germany have a good reputation as most people rent, and mortgages are far smaller, as families often live together far longer, to save up much bigger deposits. In his book Mortgage-Free (involves building your own home!), Rob Roy once wrote how he was flummoxed how so many young couples back gratefully out of the banker’s office, having just signed up to decades of debt with interest to make him rich, and them struggle forevermore. Are there better ways? Yes there are, if you think outside the box. Also read how to move home without going insane (includes tips for moving with pets).
The charity End Youth Homelessness has published a report with Yorkshire Building Society, which found that hardly anyone could now affordably rent somewhere to live. Looking at average costs along with the minimum wage or Universal Credit, it says the fact that rent should not be more than a third of someone’s salary is impossible. If someone earns £8.20 per hour, the average rent is 71% of someone’s wage. Liverpool is one of the few cities where rents are affordable, whereas in London, the annual rent is 251% of someone’s wage.
Some ways to buy a home are not always what you think:
- Downsizing is one idea, depending on whether it suits your circumstances. For instance, if you live in a tiny cramped London flat and are stressed out, you may find a nice home to do up on the Northumberland coast that costs less, and gives you a better quality of life.
- Renting is sometimes preferred. You may not get the ‘nest egg’ in retirement, but you avoid all the hassle of repairs, mortgage payments, buying and selling, furnishing, and non-stop fees. Many minimalists just prefer it this way, and think that the ‘you must buy your own home’ rhetoric is overrated. Most people on earth don’t own their own homes, so why are we so obsessed?
- Extended family homes are more popular in ethnic groups like India, but it’s a good idea if you all get on. It means everyone selling up or pooling together to live together. If that sounds cramped, here’s an example: a young couple with two children and a dog are struggling with mortgage payments and child/pet care and work two jobs and have no garden and live in a crummy area. They also miss both sets of parents (grandma/grandpa). An extended family home idea would mean that the couple and both sets of parents sell up and buy one big property with a large garden in a nice area (often with no mortgage) and you then get quality free time and free child/pet-sitting on tap. The grandparents are happier as they see their family, and the ample space means everyone likely gets more freedom anyway, and can go off exploring local areas when they want.
- Different kinds of mortgages. In Sweden, JakBank is popular. It’s a social bank that pays staff, but all other money goes back into the pot to help people. So rather than spend 25 years paying off interest on a mortgage to make your bank rich, the 25 years are spent paying off the house. Then at the end, you get back the interest that you have spent, which has helped other people. Sounds good, yes?
- Affordable housing does exist, though it’s not done in the most modern way. In Sweden, IKEA builds BOKLOK homes that are light and airy and use every square inch of space to provide lovely apartments and houses, with outdoor green space, and furniture all built in. They also have very low energy bills. Here they exist, but often it’s not easy to find land to build them on. Most ‘affordable housing’ involves going to council sites and then multiple people getting stressed bidding for properties that are not always in the most desirable areas to live.
- One solution for some is to live in a tiny house. These are miniature homes (often on wheels, so you can take them with you when you move). They are actually well-designed so good ones feel more spacious and airy than a standard size home, and some even have outdoor space and are fully-furnished. Read the post on living in tiny homes.
Right to Buy?
This was set up by Thatcher’s government, who let people buy their council houses. Sounds a good idea in theory, but it resulted in many people buying up council homes and making huge profits, while people without money ended up homeless. Help to Buy can be good, but it’s not very visionary.
Other countries in Europe have higher ownership, but less mortgages. How so? Because countries like Italy tend be more family-orientated. It’s not unusual for a couple to be engaged for 10 years to save up a big deposit, with the family chipping in the rest, then they often live in the same apartment building. No Italian market for dodgy brokers.
Sites like Home Hunt have more affordable housing for those on low incomes. Social housing was invented to provide affordable homes, yet a better idea is to use the straw bale (that is presently burned) to easily create 250,000 new cheap affordable warm homes each year.
Books on the Affordable Housing Crisis
- Gray to Green Communities looks at building affordable houses that are also sustainable, and don’t require renters to work 40 hours a week to pay for a safe and healthy home. The author’s work resulted in the first standards for green affordable housing in the US.
- Homesick is a book by Catrina Davies, who after living in a shared house in Bristol, decides to leave the box room that she worked several jobs to pay the rent, to make a tiny dilapidated shed her home. With freedom to write, surf and make music, she builds the shed (and her own sense of self) piece by piece. And on the border of the woods and the sea, she discovers the true value of home.
- The Affordable City includes 50 policy recommendations for housing policy. Shane is an urban planner, whose solutions include planning for the most vulnerable, encouraging mixed-use zoning, speeding up renter approvals and picking one (rising house prices or affordability, you can’t have both). He also suggests not selling (but leasing) public land and offering free help, to those at risk of eviction.
- Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing looks at solutions for housing stability, safety and financial help, all while reducing environmental impact. Solutions include supportive housing, net-zero coastal apartments and home ownership for people who live in deserts.
- The Council House is about our heritage that is part as Big Ben or Buckingham Palace, and why is it so much harder to find books that capture these often architectural beautiful estates? Over the last few decades, we’ve seen council houses fall into disrepair and defamation. This book by Jack Young (who spend 2 years visiting London’s most unique structures) features beautiful images, personal interviews and design that celebrate some of our most vital urban buildings. A photographic celebration of some of London’s most important and innovative council housing.