Monday, 18 April 2011

£66k a year yet still can't afford a home...

I am pleased that Stephen Gilbert MP for Newquay and St Austell has been raising the issue of the difficulty of getting onto the property ladder.  As someone who is currently renting I know how annoying it is.  

People argue that there shouldn't be such a massive push to own property, however at the end of the day would you rather be paying off a mortgage, which one day will cease and be reflected in the possession of an asset or to pay rent in perpetuity?  It's a no brainer really!  On top of that you have the restrictions renting gives, the lack of changes you can make to your home, either cosmetic or less so.  The house we currently rent requires a whole new plumbing system, if it were my house then I would be saving up and having one installed, however my letting agents are not willing to do this.  When something goes wrong you have to wait for the letting agency to do something about it (normally they have to run it by the landlord).  The a few months ago we had the following situation:

On the Friday the letting agents sent someone round to inspect our boiler (without telling us and therefore breaching their contract), this person then condemned our boiler, switched it off leaving us without heating or hot water - again without telling us.  By the time we were home on Friday the letting agents were closed so nothing we could do until the next morning.  On Saturday we contacted them and asked them to send someone round to see why it wasn't working (as we were unaware of the previous days events), they said their guy would be round about midday.  In the mean time they ran this passed the landlord who vetoed it on account that they would have had two bills to pay.  When 12:30 arrived and nobody had been round we contacted them again, they agreed to send someone over.  This person arrived a bit later and explained what had actually occurred.  He then performed a thorough investigation, before deciding that the boiler shouldn't have been condemned, however it wasn't in his mandate to change anything.  This meant all we could do was phone our letting agents, who then informed us that their services had finished and they wouldn't be able to get anyone out to us until Monday morning.  

Anyway, that's my rant regarding my letting agent over, now to the more pertinant matter.  Mr Gilbert has been critisized in some quarters with people claiming that he should be able to afford a house on his salary and that he should stop complaining as there are people a lot worse off than him.  I take one letter from the metro today as an example:

"How can someone on a salary such as that which MP Stephen Gilbert earns not afford a mortgage? I'm on less than a third of his salary and I manage - and with no hand outs." (Lindsay, Leicester)

This completely misses the point.  Firstly Mr Gilbert has only been an MP for less than a year, whilst £65,738 is a very nice salary it wont provide him with instant wealth.  The actual point being made by Mr Gilbert was not about being unable to afford a mortgage but that with the deposit requirements it is so much harder to obtain one.  As someone else pointed out the average property price in his area is £187,806, this would require a deposit in the region of £37,561 (20%) from most mortgage providers.  I for one would have been shocked if an MP would have been able to save 57% of his gross salary in his first year in politics in order to afford this.   

Now for people to assume that he has that sort of wealth from his prior work is ridiculous.  This is at a time where we are trying to encourage a more diverse range of Members of Parliament, however when we get them people just automatically assume that they are cut from the same cloth as the others.  Mr Gilbert didn't attend a private school and was the first in his family to attend University.  I would wager he's had to work a lot for little reward to get into a position where he can become a candidate and subsequently an MP.  Even if people are correct and saying that he shouldn't be complaining they should look at his subtext - he his saying just how ludicrous it is that he can't afford anywhere, so imagine the situation others in his constituancy find themselves in.  I think he is quite right to be raising this issue and I hope he does manage to bring in some reforms in housing policies.

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