I received a very interesting letter the other day from a Letchworth resident. He declared he was a Letchworth homeowner, retired and mortgage free. He stated how unaffordable Letchworth’s rising property prices were and that he worried how the younger generation of Letchworth could ever afford to buy? He went on to ask if it was right for landlords to make money on the inability of others to buy property and if, by buying a buy to let property, Letchworth landlords are denying the younger generation the ability to in fact buy their own home.
Whilst doing my research for my many blog posts on the Letchworth Property Market, I know that a third of 25 to 30 year olds still live at home. It is no wonder people are kicking out against buy to let landlords; as they are the greedy bad people who are cashing in on a social woe. In fact, most people believe the high increases in Letchworth’s (and the rest of the UK’s) house prices are the very reason owning a home is outside the grasp of these younger would-be property owners.
However, the numbers tell a different story. Looking of the age of first time buyers since 1990, the statistics could be seen to pour cold water on the idea that younger people are being priced out of the housing market. In 1990, when data was first published, the average age of a first time buyer was 33, today it’s 31.
Nevertheless, the average age does not tell the whole story. In the early 1990’s, 26.7% of first-time buyers were under 25, while in the last five years just 14.9% were. In the early 1990’s, four out of ten first time buyers were 25 to 34 years of age and now its six out of ten first time buyers.
Although, there are also indications of how un-affordable housing is, the house price-to-earnings ratio has almost doubled for first-time buyers in the past 30 years. In 1983, the average Letchworth home cost a first-time buyer (or buyers in the case of joint mortgages) the equivalent of 2.8 times their total annual earnings, whilst today, that has escalated to 5.4 times their income.
Again, those figures don’t tell the whole story. Back in 1983, the mortgage payments as percentage of mean take home pay for a Letchworth first time buyer was 29.4%. In 1989, that had risen to 75.9%. Today, it’s 33.9% … and no that’s not a typo .. 33.9% is the correct figure.
So, to answer the gentleman’s questions about the younger generation of Letchworth being able to afford to buy and if it was right for landlords to make money on the inability of others to buy property? It is not all to do with affordability as the numbers show.
What of the landlords? Some say the government should sort the housing problem out themselves, but according to my calculations, £18bn a year would need to be spent for the next 20 or so years to meet current demand for households. That would be the equivalent of raising income tax by 4p in the Pound. I do not think UK tax payers would swallow that.
So, if the Government haven’t got the money, who else will house these people? Private Sector Landlords and thankfully they have taken up the slack over the last 15 years.
Some say there is a tendency to equate property ownership with national prosperity, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The youngsters of Letchworth are buying houses, but buying later in life. Also, many Letchworth youngsters are actively choosing to rent for the long term, as it gives them flexibility – something our 21st Century society craves more than ever.