Making housing affordable for everyone should be a no-brainer, yet still today, our whole economy is one obsessed with making house prices rise up high, so most people who don’t own a home now, never have a chance of doing so in the future. Millions spend their lives working to pay off a mortgage, often on a property worth less than they paid for it.
In his book Mortgage-Free (it’s not that easy, involves building your own house!), Rob Roy writes that no other industry would have a young couple backing out of an office, grateful that they have signed their life away for the next 30 years, for no other reason than to ‘own the place they live’. But we have pressure that renting is ‘throwing money away’ (in Germany and Italy, more people rent, so they have good laws and good landlords). Whether you rent or buy depends on circumstances, but are there ways to make house renting or buying cheaper? You could avoid estate agents & letting agents. But what else?
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.
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.
One idea that is could be Sweden’s JAK Members Bank. This is a co-op that pays staff, but the rest of people’s money is used to give out mortgages. The difference is that at the end of the term, you pay off your mortgage, then get most of the interest back (unlike here, where it all goes to the banks). At least, that looks like how it works. It’s approved by many new alternative economists, as there is a ‘meaning to it’.
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.
The Affordable City
The Affordable City is a book about making housing affordable for everyone. Although written for US readers, it’s relevant everywhere, and offers 50 policy recommendations on housing policy. Author Shane Phillips is an urban planner and policy expert whose solutions include:
- Adapt solutions to community needs
- Plan for the most vulnerable
- Pick one (rising house prices or affordability)
- Don’t reward ‘idle money’
- Encourage mixed-use zoning
- Speed up renter approvals
- Offer free help for those at risk of eviction
- Enforce housing & building codes
- Don’t sell public land (lease it)
Also read Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing, which 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 book is American).