Big Eye, June 2, 2015

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Now that we have heard The Queen’s Speech and our ‘new’ Government has got to grips with the fact that they can do as they please, they still have to deal with the politically explosive question of housing. Few weeks pass without this newspaper carrying another story about residents, developers and planners fighting over proposals to build swathes of houses in Lynn and outlying market towns.

The big issue seems to be our desperate need for what we call ‘affordable housing’ …we all have our own ideas of what these airy-fairy concepts actually mean but what’s the reality? At some level there will always be people who cannot afford to buy their own home and people who’ll be resentful of the fact that they may at times be forced to decide where their priorities lie. Do you regard the holiday, new car, or new kitchen as more important than the mortgage or is the day-to-day lifestyle more valuable than scrimping and saving for 25 years to secure your nest egg? We’re a nation who sees property owning as a necessity. We enjoy seeing our money invested in bricks and mortar and we are prepared to cripple ourselves with long-term debt to secure our financial futures although recent experiences have taught many a harsh lesson in the laws of supply and demand as we see house prices see-saw between boom and bust. Currently too many of us are sitting on a time bomb with interest rates at an all-time low and our monthly payments seem highly affordable but as a veteran of the days when mortgages were running at 16% I dread the day coming when bank rates rise and the horrors of negative equity and repossessions will return.

The Government wants to give us all the chance to own our own homes but offering tenants the opportunity to buy their Council or Housing Association house at a massive discount makes no sense to me. The entire concept of these properties was to ensure we were able to offer protection and shelter those in our society who hadn’t the wherewithal to find a decent home. To sell them off at huge discounts so that many can be subsequently sold onto the open market seems like sheer irresponsibility when we see waiting lists for council properties increasing year on year. When a tenant reaches the point where they can take that step onto the commercial property ladder they should be encouraged to make their move enabling the waiting list to be shortened. Buying your own home is a not a right, it’s an aspiration and while we have people who need our protection we should not be flogging off those houses to people who could probably afford to move on.

Affordable homes exist all over our region, the Lynn News property pages are full of them and although I have sympathy for those who can’t manage to buy, it’s not up to the rest of us to finance their shortfall.