It's not unusual

20 December 2007

To describe it as a backlash would be exaggerating, admittedly. Yet an editorial I wrote in Moneywise, back in what we laughably called ‘summer’, perplexed one or two readers. My mistake was to confess to not being desperate to get on the housing ladder.

Given that I’m in my early – some would say mid – thirties, I’m in the minority among my friends. While some, reeling from successive interest rises in the last 16 months, are green with envy, others look at me with a mixture of pity and sorrow. Imagine being in your thirties and still renting, they gawp. Well, they don’t, but it’s written all over their increasingly stress-lined faces.

But if I’m honest, I’d be mad to take more than a glimpse through the many estate agent windows I walk past every day. In fact, a new estate agent seems to be opening in our area of south east London every week, replacing greasy spoons, bookies, old man’s boozers and other staples of a civilised neighbourhood.

The latest batch of new one bedroom flats to come on to the market locally (many of them easy to maintain places aimed at buy-to-let landlords) are going for £250,000 or more. And these cupboards are not only tiny, but a mate of mine who’s worked on the site insists they’ve got all the resistance of our esteemed editor Rachel walking past a shoe shop. (In other words, they’ll crumble sooner rather than later).

Yes, property is a great way to make money and it’s an essential pillar of retirement planning, but it’s become an obsession in the UK, where prices are unsustainable and personal debt continues to soar out of control. Tax breaks load the odds in favour of landlords over tenants, putting prices out of the reach of millions and creating a housing shortage that could create serious long-term social and economic problems. Not even my smug, nest furnishing friends would want that. Would they?