UK: Housing: are we reaching a tipping point?

When does a personal problem become society’s problem? How many people have to be in a situation before it ceases to be a source of shame and starts to become a spur to action? What’s the tipping point? These questions are thrown up by a new Shelter report, The Flyers and the Triers.

The phrasing is diplomatic. The “flyers” are defined as having “made minimal sacrifices to buy a home, having received substantial financial and emotional support from family”; “triers”, meanwhile, “struggled for longer to buy a home (if they got there at all). They had less help, and had to rely more on their own efforts.” You could just as well call them the Minted and the Screwed, or go traditional: the Haves and the Have-nots. It is to the credit of the charity how tactful it remains in the face of such blanket evidence of systemic failure.

Number-crunching reveals what most people who’ve housed themselves will already know – that a renting family will be £561,000 worse off over its lifetime (£1.36m worse in London). Other studies show house prices in 20 London boroughs went up last year by more than the average salary of a nurse. (“If you want a pay rise,” Tristan Carlyon of the National Housing Federation drolly observed, “then the way forward is clear: be a house.”) Rent and wages are so out of kilter that at one point in 2013 rents were going up five times faster than salaries…