Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The British Government Endorses Polygamy

Once upon a time in the post-war era an entire family could live and pay their mortgage on a husband's salary - which was just as well since the wife was expected to leave work the moment she married and the husband also expected and wished to support his wife to stay at home and iron his newspapers/children - it being a pride thing.

This state of affairs endured until the early 1970s when feminism came along.
A good concept in many respects as chaps had definitely had it all their own way for far too long, an unexpected side-effect of greater female earning power was a sudden lurch upwards in house prices.

With the countrys' women taking to the workplace in their droves, more and more families started to benefit from the additional income to enjoy their first wondrous luxuries such as their own family car on the driveway and straw donkeys on the mantelpiece from their first package foreign holidays to Benidorm.

However someone somewhere noticed all this going on and thought, hmm, we'll soon put a stop to this extra income lark!

Suddenly houses began to shoot up in price until within a decade it became necessary for not one, but two, full-time salaries coming into a household to cover most mortgages.

Since then things have gone from bad to worse and however much a woman may want to stay at home to raise children, unless her husband/partner is wealthy these days, she will often have no choice but to return to work full-time, often without even the luxury of being able to remain at home until her youngsters start school (and feminism was supposed to be about having a choice of choices, right?).

But house prices didn't stop there. Oh no! People started finding they were being priced out of property altogether, particularly in certain areas of the country. For a while ingenious 100% + mortgages, terrifying 'interest-only' mortgages and cheap loans papered over the cracks by offering first-time buyers the chance of an unsustainable-if-rates-ever-rose home ownership opportunity.

However at least it was an opportunity and many grabbed it, even going so far as to tell whoppers on income self-disclosure forms to secure ever more perilous piles of finance to afford their 'house of cards'

Increasing numbers are today facing repossession or having to radically-downsize in a sinking market now that rates have shot up and the fixed-rate mortgage bonanza is coming to an end. Meantime the banks responsible for the credit crunch through their short-term speculating/reckless lending to the feckless/feck'd continue to award their CEO's obscene annual bonuses, rather than the Order of the Boot for their gross failure, and penalise the poor householder through increasing interest rates on the one hand while that same poor householder is bailing those selfsame banks out through the Government raiding their taxes to prop up them up on the other, thereby hammering the poor householder twice over.

But w***er banks aside, if we are to return to the sensible days of a sustainable 3 and a half x salary calculation for a mortgage and most houses are still around £200k, I calculate I will need at least 2.5 similarly income-endowed husbands to afford a modest two up, two down in a reasonable area of Oxford - 3.5 if they want a bigger house with a room each! Hence I might just have to opt for blogmate Mrs G's unthinkable solution! As for children, I might just be able to afford to rent a couple at weekends tho' they'd have to get a Saturday job once they hit 5 years old.

To be reduced to polygamy though - what is our government thinking of? ;-)

On a more serious note, 70% of UK citizens not yet on the property ladder are now 'poopers' (priced out of property) - ie; earning too much to qualify for social housing, but not enough to acquire a mortgage. As a co-operatively minded individual who believes in citizens getting together to fight back against an overly-greedy system I have joined my local Community Land Trust, who seek to provide a community-led solution to genuinely affordable housing.


Brother Tobias said...

It doesn't help that increased expectations and housing standards have driven out the tatty bottom end of the housing market - so disdained, but one which played an important role in providing starter housing for people with lower incomes. The house we live in scores as sub-standard by census criteria because it doesn't have central heating, although central heatinmg is simply not one of Life's necessities, any more than a holiday in Benidorm is..

Mrs. G. said...

I can't help but feel the entire world is out of balance-except Norway. I think they get it right.

Wisewebwoman said...

I benefited by buying low and selling high a year back, Laura, but without the release of this equity I would be facing a rather dismal, impoverished old age. I bought my current, and hopefully permanent home at a laughably low price because it is so far off the beaten track.
Real estate has changed so much from my parents' time.
We should all have the ability to buy an affordable home in this so-called democracy.

teeni said...

With the prices of gasoline and heating oil, it's as though everyone has taken a massive pay cut on top of everything else. It just keeps seeming like the person with the smallest cut of your paycheck is you yourself. Sad.

Steve said...

Right on the button with what Karen and I are going through at the moment - both working, both can't afford not to work but we're still not earning enough to make ends meet... hence I need to find another job on top of my full-time job and my part time web design business. But we're earning too much to receive any financial help. I'm effectively working for nothing at the moment... or rather just working to go nowhere at all. It's very frustrating and emmigration is suddenly looking attractive.

Anonymous said...

wonderful piece, Laura.

It has always depressed me to hear people celebrating the rise of property prices as they have done at social gatherings ever since I can remember. These people seemed to have no concern for those not yet on the property ladder including their own children who would have to bump their parents off to buy a house. My house is my home not a financial investment.

Most women have no choice at all at the moment about whether to work.

Like Steve I am sorely tempted by emigration at the moment. Whilst my own situation is relatively stable because I am fortunate to have plenty of work and no mortgage, it is not going to be a good place for my children to set out in the world. Plus the climate is dire.

What a mess we have got ourselves into. Perhaps polygamy is indeed the only way out - I suppose to save money I could marry my sons off to two women at the same time, having two weddings would be very expensive.

moi said...

I was talking about just this same thing the other day. How when I was growing up in the 1970s, my father, a high school teacher, could afford to clothe, feed, house, and doctor (without a stitch of medical insurance) his entire family of four on a measly $1,500 a month. Hell, I couldn't even raise myself on that today.

Steerforth said...

I couldn't agree more with your comments. I've read that our standard of living has improved since the 1960s, but what about our quality of life?

I have several friends who are in their late 30s and earn a reasonable salary, but because they're single, they can't even afford to buy a studio flat in the worst part of London. For their sake, I hope that house prices continue to decline.

The OCLT sounds a brilliant idea.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Brother Tobias, you are right that there are fewer near-derelict homes around, though the sad fact is that this makes *little* difference to their price any more as houses are now priced according to desirability of location more than any other factor.

Well the Swedes have given us Ikea Mrs G - we can only wait with baited breath for the Norweigan input!

WWW - I don't begrudge you your good fortune for a moment - if it weren't for pensions etc letting people down, many who did manage to get on the property ladder would not have needed to sell for a premium when they could. But alas there was only so much I felt I could squeeze into one blog posting!

A very acute observation Teeni - increasingly we are all going to work for everyone but ourselves and will end up merely treading water financially to keep our heads above it!

Steve I do sympathise & have been trying a few things to earn extra mullah myself with limited success. And I already live in a Park Home (yes, I'm trailer park trash!) However I am ready to stand up and fight for my right to remain in the land of my birth at a price I can afford and I hope I can count on you and Mrs GTi to be similarly stubborn, along with many others!

RB - glad to hear you are reasonably secure in your own situation, but naturally you worry about your children and how they will afford things in future. However to follow up from my comment to Steve above, I think this country has even LESS chance of sorting itself out if we all abandon it. I know there is increasingly little to be 'proud' of, but I for one am still British at the end of the day and am damned if I'm going to be forced out of my own country rather than counter-demand my right to live in it affordably. And I think we should demand a discount for the weather while we're about it! Good idea to encourage the joint marriage thing to save money re the kids. I'd quite like to see old seaside boarding houses transformed into civilised 'communes' where civilised people could go and live more cheaply - each with their own en-suited room, but with communal kitchens/lounges etc. I'm starting one for writers if I get the money!

Moi, yes it's horrifying isn't it that on the one hand we have all these material goods, but on the other, we are actually poorer than our parents/grandparents!

Steerforth - I do sympathise with the plight of your friends. And doubtless they have even looked into canal boats (as did I) re the affordable housing thing! I am now 'trailer park trash' as I probably mentioned, but I hear official Park Home sites are rare in London! You are spot on about our quality of life declining though - a bit like the concept of the 'paperless office' seems to have led to more paperwork and beaurocracy than ever!

Lavinia said...

I've been reading about UK property woes on dailymail.com. I hope that is a reliable source? I feel sympathy for all those who have been priced out of the market and you have posted a very intelligently written post. I hope a solution looms on the horizon. Society has become incredibly complex and many of the things we took for granted in the past have been turned on their ear. It's a new and different Britain these days, nearly unrecognizable from the one of decades ago and many people have been left shattered by it.

By the way, thanks for visiting my blog!