On our way to a new relationship with property?

For those who missed the Thatcherite council house revolution, or (what now look like unbelievably) low house prices of just a few years ago, Becky Pugh’s plaintive cry for a rich husband must sound familiar.

I am 27, have £114.34 in my savings account, no cash injection from my parents and no likely benefactors. Each salary increase means only that paying my bills becomes less of a burden.

First-time buyers are borrowing as much as six times their salaries to secure themselves a foothold on the ladder. Six times my salary would fetch me a small bike shed in central London.I’d store up some readies if I ate baked beans, drank Ribena and watched terrestrial television every night, but I’d rather continue to have a life worth living.

Then she notes:

If Gordon Brown does manage to build three million homes by 2020 – which is unthinkably far off – it won’t ease my pain. They will mostly be outside London and too ugly to be happy in. The same goes for the properties available through housing association schemes. Until bankers, foreigners, interest rates and buy-to-letters stop getting in my way, I’m going to have to hold out for that rich husband. If he doesn’t materialise, I will make like the super-chic Parisians and New Yorkers and rent for ever more. I needn’t bend over backwards just to call a hovel my own. Paying off somebody else’s mortgage can be my stab at philanthropy.

In Britain and Ireland there has long been a culture of owner/occupiers, which simply doesn’t exist to the same extent in other countries, where renting is the norm for most: including those in the professional classes. It leaves us with an awkward and problematical problem with regard to some housing problems.

John Bird (he of big issue fame) argued on the Daily Politics Show earlier this week that there was less need for new build houses, than finding ways to get tenants to assume greater care for the ones that are already built. He cited some impressive figures on the numbers of unoccupied social housing in Scotland.

Can’t see that appealing directly to politicians, but perhaps a rejigging of the bargain between the rights and responsibilities of tenants could make renting more socially acceptable, more sustainable and, indirectly, take some of the heat out of a highly inflationary housing market?