Sunday, January 09, 2011

Cliches of 2011 #2

"You've GOT to own your own home".

This particularly simplistic cliche' shuns a series of complications.

For instance, in an ever unpredictable job market, what happens if your only hope of dodging the dole queue means moving from place to place?

Or, what do you do if you don't do your homework properly and you find yourself saddled with a structurally unsound home or with the family from hell living next door? If you were renting, you'd just tell the landlord and pack your bags. But if you bought it and don't have the extra dosh to sort it out, then you may be up shit creek. If not for the rest of your life, definitely for an awful long time.

But the most unpalatable truth is the one related to finances.

Of course, it's all very nice to own a house if you have the funds, but Britain's the place where an alarming number of people have fallen for the spell of "getting on the property ladder" and the illusion of "asset ownership" no matter how barely they can afford it.

The last 15 years have seen a ridicuous number of tv programmes turning home ownership into the nation's biggest fetish: Property Ladder, Location Location Location, Grand Designs, Homes Under the Hammer, One Year to Pay Off Your Mortgage, and god knows how many others. They all had one thing in common however: the notion that, yes, you too can own a house and point at it while hugging your smiling partner- that's what makes you a happy family. The ultimate dream. The be all and end all of existence.

One thing, however, is never mentioned: the simple fact that it's not your asset and it will not be until the final instalment thirty-plus years from now.

You can be paying back your mortgage religiously over decades, each and every month, easily in excess of hundreds of thousands of pounds of hard-earned cash. But if something goes tits up (i.e. you lose your job), that all goes down the drain and so does "your asset" - which means your home gets repossessed.

Did you know that in the last three years alone in excess of 120,000 families were kicked out of their "own assets" (details here, here and here)? Remember 120,000 is the number of homes repossessed, meaning that the average number of people affected since 2007, children included, may be knocking on half a million.

It's a national tragedy, but one that the media rarely talks about, perhaps because of its supremely depressing nature. Or, perhaps, because it may highlight the unpleasant story that lies behind the most inflated and speculative "industry" in the country, one where average house prices didn't double or triple, but quadrupled (QUADRUPLED), between 1995 and the pre-recession peaks of 2007.

Other cliches:
"Not everyone is obsessed with...";
"Why can't Britain cope with snow?...";
"Society benefits from extreme wealth at the top";
"There are jobs out there if you really want one";
"The Royal Family brings in tourism revenue";
"Iain Duncan Smith is a kind and honourable man".

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