Combining as it does speculation and private property, the property market seems like the perfect match for the country that codified modern capitalism and gambling. It's taken a global pandemic to reveal its irrationalityby Alexis Self / May 24, 2020 / Leave a comment
During one of the 4,000 Zoom quizzes in which I’ve recently taken part, those assembled were asked what it was that the French called “the English disease.” The answer, dredged up along with an ocean floor of other sexual proclivities, was spanking. But if there is any obsession in this country which seems almost pathological, or indeed perverse, in its intensity, it is that with the property market.
No matter what the crisis, there’ll always be a front-page item telling us what it might mean for house prices. And usually, as is the case right now, the prognosis ain’t too brill. Well, if you’re a homeowner, anyway.
If, however, you’re one of the nearly 40 per cent of working age Britons who doesn’t own their home (a figure that rises to around 75 per cent for those aged 18-35) you might not give it a second thought. Or you might take some schadenfreudic glee in the news. You might even start to think “hmmm… with prices low, this could be my chance to join the semi-detached ranks, to finally own my own home!” You might feel all three, I know I have—there’s a lot of time to feel things at the moment.
Our fanaticism is not surprising, when you think about it. Combining as it does speculation and private property, the housing market seems like a perfect match for the country that codified modern capitalism, and modern gambling, then took both worldwide. But the truth is, it’s only in the past 30-odd years that Britain’s bricks-and-mortar habit has become such a debilitating problem, with serious long-term effects.
The irony is, of course, that it was Thatcher’s “Right to Buy” scheme which began the steady decline in the average person’s ability to do just that. Since then, successive prime ministers have preached the cut and thrust benevolence of an unregulated housing market, while selling home ownership as an opportunity to realise that which has always been the closest we’ll ever get to a “British Dream.”
If their aim was to drive up house prices, they succeeded, and in doing so, they made a lot of people rich. Those able to afford property when the going was good…