This blogpost picks up on a number of themes written by @Penners_ in her article Living with grandma. Like may people in their late 20s and early 30s, I certainly didn’t plan on having to move back in with my parents either after university or during my working life. This blogpost amongst other things is going to look at the fallacy of composition when you start putting individual policies that in isolation may seem to make sense but when put together, make anything but.
Three of the big issues for me are housing, transport and education.
On the issue of housing, the article mentioned above covers several of the themes. There are also a number of other issues. Buy-to-let ‘investors’ are benefiting at the expense of first-time buyers on the back of the mortgage finance squeeze. There are also continuing problems of unused or under-used properties whether empty mansions or empty homes. The fixed supply of land inevitably means that there will be limitations on what sorts of housing can be built where – to say nothing about planning laws, building regulations and the issue of who owns which plots of land and which buildings.
I’ve mentioned before that my former headmaster told us school leavers in the mid-1990s that our generation would not be in positions where we have jobs for life. We would have to reskill, upskill and change careers. The changes to how further and higher education is financed means that the cost burden has moved from the state to the individual. The rationale for replacing a system of grants and free education to one of loans is that individuals will benefit from higher incomes when they complete their education and training, enabling them to pay off any loans that they take out to pay for the tuition and other costs required. That may may some sense in ‘job-for-life’ careers, but where people have to continually retrain and switch careers, loan after loan after loan (that needs to be repaid) becomes a trap – the curse of debt.
There is then the issue of the cost of transport – something that I covered in In praise of public transport. What is the rationale for further fare rises? The Campaign for Better Transport asks this question in The Telegraph. Whitehall departments are among many employers that offer season ticket loans for their employees, such are the expense of season tickets. I commuted from Cambridge for a couple of years because I found London rents to be unaffordable. It wasn’t just the rent alone – there are utility bills too…bills that are also rising. Can’t afford a place of my own, struggling to afford the costs of getting too and from the office, repaying the loans and debts from university days…that does not leave much left.
While all of this is happening, there is an unemployment crisis – in particular with young people. It is one that goes beyond our own borders too – the Eurozone (irrespective of who is to blame) showing eye-wateringly high unemployment figures. How can people possibly pay off those loans if there are no jobs for them to go into? For those who are in work, the majority of them have had pay freezes or below-inflation pay-rises. The situation looks very bleak – in particular for poorer people who are being hit hardest by inflation.
There is then the problem of consumer debt – one that is getting worse. The desperation drives many people into the arms of payday loan companies – an issue that Stella Creasy has been continuing to go after.
House prices are outside the reach of many of us, with rents seemingly going in the same direction. Those who do take out mortgages do so at eye-watering levels. Rents are becoming more and more unaffordable. Public transport is becoming even more unaffordable – assuming that the routes have not been cut as a result of the wider public service cuts. Tuition fees are now at the levels that people would have thought was the equivalent of the cost of a house only a generation or two ago. People are also having to spend more and more (in both time and money) on retraining for new careers as jobs demand more specialised skills. Combine that with intrusive saturation advertising exhorting people to go out and buy into the new crazes…is there any money left?
- House prices at stupidly high levels & thus unaffordable for many people – loans
- Tuition fees and course fees at such high levels as to be unaffordable for many people – loans
- Public transport and season tickets getting to such high levels as to be unaffordable for many people – loans
At what point do people say “Actually, we cannot afford any of that!” Are people with the talent to go down a number of career paths already doing so? Are people who are suitable for certain jobs choosing not to go for them because of the costs of getting to/from work and/or the costs of renting close to the place of work? Because if that is the case, that cannot be good for the economy (because the most competent people best suited for the jobs/careers are not even applying for them) and it cannot be good for society (because people are being denied the opportunities to reach their potential).
Do any mainstream politicians have the vision, calibre and competency to do anything about it and stop the current system from pricing the rest of us out of existence? The number of longterm unpaid internships at the House of Commons-backed website W4MP isn’t filling me with a huge amount of confidence.