I was surprised that in responding to Coco Khan’s questions about the housing market (Are UK house prices ever going to crash? We ask the expert, 22 October), Danny Dorling left an important part of the whole picture until the last sentence: “We are one of the most unequal countries in Europe.”
Surely an important reason for the steep rise in house prices is that the wealthy can make a handsome profit from renting out a house when many other investments are uncertain. Where we were once a country of homeowners, we are now increasingly becoming a country of renters. Buy-to-let is commonly seen in estate agents.
Many houses are being bought by the wealthy as second homes, and overseas buyers looking for a lucrative return are making things even more difficult for first-time buyers. A house is a home and that is a bottom-line requirement for us all. We can choose whether to buy the latest fashionable clothing, or to replace our kitchen, but when times get difficult we will always need a home. This is why the wealthy are guaranteed a handsome return when they invest in property.
I suspect that while the rich continue to look for a good return on their investment, and while people continue to need somewhere to live, house prices are unlikely to go down. Unless, that is, the lot of ordinary working people becomes so desperate that they are no longer able to pay rent.
I was saddened to see the Guardian normalising the practice of house purchase to perpetuate school selection by wealth (Fantasy house hunt: Homes for sale within easy reach of schools – in pictures, 22 October). The 1988 Education Reform Act introduced the principle of parents being able to choose a (state-funded) school for their children. I and others teaching at the time could see where this would lead.
Schools, often on spurious and ill-informed grounds, became either “sought after” or rejected. Very quickly, local authority schools became ranked as parents with the means chose certain schools, whose reputation would then be reinforced as each year went by. This, of course, resulted in a group of schools at the bottom of this league, who had to manage the manifestation of more than average local social deprivation.
This is selection by privilege. Prior to this, local authorities designated catchment areas that would include a cross section of communities in the borough. Surely this is where social cohesion can begin?
The properties in your “fantasy house hunt” more than illustrate the advantages the well-to-do have when playing the education system. While one property (two bedrooms, Hay-on-Wye) was priced at an affordable £275,000, the rest ranged from £400,000 to nearly £900,000. To move near to these “good schools”, all in prosperous places, requires a substantial income and is beyond the means of most parents. No doubt there are cheaper houses in these school catchment areas and it is certain that there are many “good schools” in places where the middle classes have not yet pushed up prices. Perhaps the Guardian could look into the options available to people on more modest means for whom “fantasy” might just mean a decent home with a secure tenancy at an affordable rent.
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
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