The Aussie/Kiwi/Candadian back packer who comes to kip down on the sofa of your student flat on your sofa for a few days and is still there a year later is an unfair cliche but worth wheeling out from time to time. In days gone by they would at least cough up a few quid from their day job at Food for Thought or wherever and always counted on to stand their round or wait in for the gasman and be gone by the time they’d saved up for a flight to Machu Picchu. But things have changed. Nowadays rents are so high, and jobs so scarce that once someone bags your sofa that’s it. They invoke squatters rights. Vix is apoplectic on behalf of a friend who’s freeloading mate arrived a year ago and still has yet to pay a penny or show any sign of moving on. She’s been leaving copies of Loot around for weeks. What’s worse is that instead of getting the traditional bar job he appears to be doing work experience in a pub.
It’s a perfect storm of economic disaster and sums up what is happening in the larger world where rents are getting higher and mortgages, despite record low interest rates are getting longer and more difficult to acquire thanks to the huge deposits that are required and the low wages available to save up for them. The Government’s answer is to suggest a 30 year mortgage, which on the surface may sound a sensible way of spreading out the cost – after all in Japan mortgages can be spread down the generations. I know one family who is still paying off their grandfather’s mortgage.
But a long mortgage doesn’t necessarily mean a cheap mortgage. The last time it happened, according to today’s Guardian borrowers were trapped paying more than 6% at a fixed rate and were charged 3% to pay it back before the first ten years.
No-one seems take responsibility for the shortage of affordable homes, either to buy or to rent. The latest distraction technique is to blame those lucky enough to have paid their mortgage off for keeping others off the housing ladder. The Intergenerational Foundation in a report entitled Hoarding of Housing accused empty nesters of “clinging onto their houses long after they had outlived their usefulness as family homes” which was a particularly vindictive and diversionary tactic to make. I don’t see why grandparents should be guilt tripped into selling their family home just because the economy has failed to ensure that the housing market isn’t performing as it should. After all – where would be without the annual row about whose family we are going to descend on at Christmas…