Housing is the third rail of British investment classes, and I don’t usually go there for the simple reason that I don’t invest in it.
However, I never really spent much time working out exactly why this asset class is so heady and dangerous. I spent a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirrror working out how it hurt me, examining how, after 20 years of actually paying down the mortgage I had just about broken even relative to the estimated cost of renting, and how terribly front-loaded the risk was – I got away with it because I stayed in the same job for 24 years and bought that house six months into that job.
Even Monevator declared the asset class overvalued and he’s not a fellow who likes to let on that crystal balls have their place at very rare times 🙂 Although I am still chortling about this –
by the 1980s they could begin amassing the property wealth they have today – aided enormously by the right-to-buy and buy-to-let booms that the current Government is only just applying the brakes to.
Not me, mate, I took the sucker punch here and I’ve read the early 1990s news reports that predate the Web where 3 million of my compatriots were in negative equity. The specifically housing part of my networth is probably less than a tenth of the total, and I own half the equity in the house outright (Mrs Ermine owns the other half, not a bank 🙂 ). I do own land elsewhere that roughly doubles that, arguably my property asset class worth is about a suburban semi . Before Londoners start to spit bricks and think the Ermine is on the Sunday Times Rich List, remember that house prices in the provinces are much lower than in London.
As an aside, I’m intrigued by the result of 80 years of peace in Europe leading to the nonchalance of
it could eventually be the country I live in. The gulf between what you can buy in the UK and in the great livable cities of Europe is staggering.
The ermine is a jittery fellow, and even if we discount Brexit, I hear the distant drumbeats of serious social unrest in Europe. Sometimes it takes an outsider to clarify the matter –
At different times and for different reasons, all of the large European states—the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany—have blocked attempts to create a common foreign and defense policy, and as a result they have no diplomatic or political clout.
They haven’t wanted European leadership, and most of them wouldn’t have wanted American leadership either, even if any had been on offer. The richest economy in the world has a power vacuum at its heart and no army. Now the consequences are literally washing up on Europe’s shores.
But that’s not the point of this post. It is the discovery of the cogent rant linked to here in the comments of Monevator’s Yes, we do have a house price problem article. Unfortunately it’s far too long, so my service here is to summarise some of the observations in a post that is too long but a hundredth of the size:
In an industrial consumer society, shelter is the one basic Maslow need most people buy on credit
Take a look at the bottom two layers, which are basic and fundamental needs. Most of us don’t buy food on credit – cash is king here, from income. If you do buy love you probably use cash too 😉 Unlike in the US, healthcare is free in the UK. Although I am sure that there are many who would like to try, we don’t currently charge for air, and most people pay for water as they go along too.
Unfortunately there’s one big item that addresses homeostasis, sleep, security of body etc, and that is shelter from the rain and other hazards, in short, housing. A hairless mammal in a Northern European climate needs a home. The vast majority of people, on leaving the parental home, are not rich enough to buy a house outright. They need to borrow most of the price.
The free market fails dismally where everyone buys an essential product with credit
If I want to buy a pound of apples, or a car, markets work well, because what is called market substitution happens if suppliers price-gouge. I switch to oranges if apples are too dear, I use public transport or a bicycle if cars are too dear. In this way the balance of power is matched – if the buyers are too tight the product is withdrawn from sale because producers don’t find it worth their while, if the producers want all the money the buyers disappear. Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand does its job well when everybody can walk away and do without. When you can’t, the Invisible Hand grabs you by the balls and your heart usually follows. Nowhere is this clearer than with housing.
Where the essential good is being sold on credit, the price is simply determined by the amount of credit the buyers can muster. I was able to drastically and stupidly overpay for a two-up-two-down in 1989 because I had a decent job, with good prospects so I could correctly use a low-start mortgage, and was able to borrow £15,000 at true 0% interest-free credit on an MBNA credit card – and pay all that back in a year from a combination of savings, selling stuff and earnings. Lucky me for being able to raise that much capital to misallocate, eh? So the price rises to match the amount of credit that people can raise. I am ashamed to say that I was well through half my mortgage term before this obvious fact finally dawned on me. This is why all Government intervention on the demand side to make buying more affordable, ie Right To Buy – underpricing sales to selected buyers,[^1] Help To Buy – underwriting the risk of default to lenders meaning they can lend more for the same risk, end up in higher house prices. House prices aren’t particularly determined by the component costs plus labour, they are determined by buyers’ ability to get credit. Where do you get credit from? Britain’s mahoosive financial industry, natch. How does this industry make money? Lending money to people. How does it make more profit – by lending more money.
[^1]: who then arbitrage the difference
Interest-Only mortgages were a wheeze to write more mortgage finance
I had an IO mortgage in 1989, but the mortgage company would damned well not let me out of the room without arranging an endowment and they took a primary charge (ie first call on the money) over it, I couldn’t just quietly drop it and wing it to save money. I switched to part repayment on moving in 1997 I think, but the charge was still there on the endowment backing the IO. And I had to write to them and ask them to release the charge before I could pay off that part of the mortgage, with the proceeds of a mis-selling claim on the endowment[^2]
[^2]:I gather most people took this as a windfall and treated the kids on a blow-out holiday.
In the end mortgage companies wised up. They want to write as much mortgage book as they could, and servicing that pesky endowment or ISA mortgage tediously reduces the borrower’s ability to pay interest. Over 25 years house prices will never fall in nominal terms so just cut out the middleman – take the charge on the house, run IO and if the borrower can’t repay the much eroded capital sum then tough luck, at least they had a break from the tender ministrations of Britain’s amateur landlords for a quarter of a century.
The regulator woke up from its Rip Van Winkle slumber in 2014 with the Mortgage Market Review(MMR). Presumably some civil servant noted the the impending doom of all these people who will become homeless just as they stop working and decided the social security budget wasn’t ready for that. Apparently BTL wasn’t covered by the MMR. As a result BTLers can carry on IO, which puts them at a massive advantage relative to putative owner-occupiers. Over a 25 year term you roughly pay three times the sticker price for a house at typical long-run British interest rates, but because inflation erodes some of that it roughly works out to twice the sticker price in real terms. Obviously, if you don’t have to find the capital you are up on the fellow who does, and can outbid the sucker and leave him for dust 😉
The promotion of BTL was a wheeze to write more mortgage finance
To a first approximation Britain’s stock of housing per capita is static or falling behind. Given that, simple arithmetic shows that if you are Britain’s banking sector and want to increase the size of your mortgage book so you can make more money in real terms, the average price of housing has to go up in real terms. That’s particularly important in a time of historically low interest rates. [^3]
[^3]: When I bought that house in 1989 I think a lender would lend you 2.5 times the man’s salary and 2 items the woman’s (‘cos she was going to go and have kids, don’t shoot me, I am the reporter here) or 3.5 times a single person’s salary. The deposit didn’t particularly matter then, I was able to drum up a 20% deposit by adding savings – I was 29. As a result I could buy a house 3.5 * 100/80 = 4.3 times my salary, well done me, eh?
The trouble is, that rising house prices eventually choke off first-time buyers somewhere around the 5 to 6 times household income mark, because they are early in their working lives and so their salaries are lower. What the banks wanted was a pool of buyers who had more money, because those damned FTB dudes were too poor after a few years of rising prices to feed the banks need to make money.
What about people like Connie, eh? Offer her interest-only, so she can beat out those bottom-end first-time buyers. Conveniently these guys can provide the warm bodies to occupy those houses and pay the mortgage, since Connie can offset the mortgage interest against tax, which they can’t [^4] Since banks have been ramping prices for a long time by inflating credit, Connie gets to believe that it is a deep law of economics that house prices always rise in real terms, so she is perfectly happy to borrow shitloads of money and ignore the BTL rules as she chases the pound signs. I would imagine UTMT, who works in finance, earns a bit more than Connie who is a teacher, and yet UTMT is clearly short of ambition as he has only three BTL properties as opposed to her five. Or just maybe he understands risk better than she does, let’s face it, that is what he does 9 to 5 😉
[^4]: this used to be possible – MIRAS was axed 15 years ago when the government of the day realised all it did was pump up house prices
It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do, buying something on margin that always goes up in real terms. Let’s hear it from
Earlier in my career, before I had children, I had always gone very close to the wire when it came to risk… but now I would never risk the security of my family.
Do you have a personal pension or long-term financial strategy?
I have a small pension. My property portfolio and business investments are the main focus.
Do you invest in stocks and shares?
We invest in businesses that we have become involved in. I have trust funds for the kids, but our proper investments are property and businesses. I prefer stocks and shares Isas.
Now if you want to get rich, run a successful business. If you think you will get rich through investing alone, you are very seriously on the wrong track. Running a business adding value to other humans’ lives in some way is what people will pay you handsomely for, and it appear this Willingham woman has some of these skillz. So it’s perfectly possible that she is a property landlord in the true sense of the word, ie she owns the properties, as opposed to being a self-employed worker for a bank whose capital she is using on margin. The sentiments, however, are widespread.
The banks solved two problems with BTL. One is increasing size of the mortgage book and the other was to eliminate the tedious limitation of needing first time buyers on the input side of the housing ladder. Employ a BTL ‘landlord’ to rent the house out to what would otherwise be a first time buyer. You can get more money out of the FTBer for a given house that way.
This house price misery is being caused by the needs of banks to increase the lending pool
We’ve already had one financial crash largely caused by excessive risk-taking on residential property – American res property. In Britain our banks are smarter in that all home loans are written with recourse, whereas in America you can walk away from negative equity with the quaint practice of jingle mail.. I personally hope all BTL loans are written with recourse on the BTL investor’s main residence too, but I’m just mean that way. It’s a common requirement for small biz loans to take a charge on the business owner’s property, because Chuck Colson was right.
Once you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow
so obviously if this is a real business, similar terms will apply to raising finance…
Why did previous generations not have this hurt?
tl;dr – it’s largely Margaret Thatcher’s fault
First, some history. Once upon a time in living memory, Britain had a flourishing manufacturing industry and we used to make things, this lasted up until the 1960s. Far more people were employed in making stuff – this however did have a corollary, in that life was hard, and people were bitterly poor. Cars and television sets were expensive and unreliable. Britain had fought two world wars and was in the process of losing an empire, because the falcon could no longer hear the falconer and the centre was unable to hold, though those colonial upstarts of the US of A also gently put the boot in because they quite fancied the crown, and indeed got it – symbolically the Suez crisis was the passing of the baton from the Old World to the New.
This decline had its denouement in the 1970s, when after having made an unholy mess of the retreat from Empire in Palestine there was the little issue of unfinished business in the Middle East, where it so happened most of the easily winnable oil was to be found. In 1973 the Arabs decided they would try and catch the Israelis napping on the religious festival of Yom Kippur. Israel persuaded the Americans to airlift them military supplies and then used these to beat the shit out of the opposition, in particular to seize the Sinai desert from Egypt.
The American military airlift to Israel, moreover, had led Arab oil producers to embargo oil shipments to the United States and some Western European countries, causing international economic upheaval.
All modern economic growth is driven by excess energy being transformed into Stuff and Services that people can be made to like, and the Arabs controlled the supply of the black stuff that powers the modern world still now. As a result of the embargo, the economy of the West was smashed, and in the turmoil the collection of rules of thumb known as the post-war consensus were destroyed. Britain suffered stupendous inflation, and the trade unions ran amok, destroying both the Conservative Heath administration and the following Labour administration. We had the three day week, rubbish piled up in the streets, and a jumped-up piece of scum called Arthur Scargill charged around the country with his heavies like he ran the bloody place. Which he did – not only could he choke off the supply of coal which was used to generate electrical power, giving us the three-day-week, but he also got his hired goons to charge around the country to stop other people going to work using heavies – flying pickets. The apotheosis of his tactics where when a couple of striking miners dropped a concrete block from a footbridge over the A465 highway onto a taxi carrying a strikebreaker, killing the taxi driver. It’s virtually impossible for anyone under 40 in this country to comprehend just how stupendously powerful the trade unions used to be. What they said went, and they knew it. Londoners get a faint taste of it every so often when the RMT stop the trains. It appears that the RMT prevents LU looking for candidates to drive underground trains on the open market, despite that fact that you can train a spotty youth to drive a tube train in six months. Apparently it is essential to have been a grunt in the ticket office first.
The Ermine measures slightly left of centre on the political compass, but I loathe trade unions and their rabble rousers with a vengeance because I have lived in the country when these guys ran it and gave us 26% annual inflation, and I don’t ever, ever, want to see that again.
Into the eye of this storm came an apparent saviour
As soon as he was able to vote the young Ermine voted for her (but never again) and faced with the same circumstances I would happily do so again. Not because what she offered was good, but it was a lot less bad than having Art running the joint. Should I outlive him and come across his gravestone at some point I would be quite happy to make a detour and piss on it; I have a deep and existential hatred for Arthur Scargill and everything that he stands for. Although I took the shaft from Thatcher in the housing area and was unlucky enough to graduate into the first of her three recessions, she changed for the better a good number of things that seriously needed changing in Britain; breaking the power of the unions was one of them.
What was so good about the postwar consensus for housing
It recognised that many people are too poor to own their own home, and built council housing for them. This was not an unalloyed success, but compared to the poor living at the mercy of a BTL landlord on a six month assured shorthold tenancy they got a lot right. Council houses weren’t just for the poor in the 1970s, although there were many sink estates. Half the kids at my SE London grammar school lived in council houses. South London and in particular south-east London has always been the wrong side of the tracks, but many of these council house tenants were white-collar parents with soft hands.
Coincidentally, until 1971 there was the Bretton Woods agreement that attempted to keep the currencies of the industrial nations fixed in a band relative to each other. One of the ways governments did of that was regulate credit and foreign exchange – you could only take so much currency out of the country on holiday. Credit was tightly controlled – both consumer credit – there were few credit cards, but also mortgage loans were made by building societies – I believe banks were not permitted to advance loans for buying a house in the 1970s. Building societies took the money from savers and lent it to people buying a home. This naturally limits the amount of mortgage credit available; try and lend too much and you run out of savers.
Thatcher laid the foundations for house price inflation in all these ways:
Let us count the many ways Thatcher truly f*cked up the UK housing market. Other people added to the mess, but Thatcher poured most of the foundation concrete.
She introduced Right To Buy. I can see absolutely no good societal reason for RTB whatsoever – the concept still incenses me. If you’re rich enough to buy your own house then go right out there on the open market and buy one FFS, knock yourself out. Why do you deserve a free bung from me and other taxpayers which would be better spent on some other poor sod who can’t take the risk? RTB at a single stroke smashed half the house building in this country because councils weren’t permitted to plough back the revenue into building more council houses, presumably this saving subsidised Thatcher’s purchase of votes through RTB from people who would normally have been too poor to vote Tory 🙂
Not only that, but in 1989 I was fighting more people in the owner-occupier housing market – my own taxes were being used to shaft me, because houses were being taken out of the social housing arena and not getting replaced. Diehard Thatcherites always boil my head on this saying that sold council house still holds a family, so no net loss, which is absolutely true, but the second half of the problem is councils stopped building houses in the UK – look at what happened to the orange line and just STFU guys!
her relaxation of credit controls in the early 80s had a bigger economic impact than she intended. She envisaged these as a step towards economic freedom. But they were more than that. They permitted a consumer-driven society and economy. This was not her intention. As the Heresiarch rightly emphasises, her vision of Britain was of a property-owning democracy of savers with moral restraint. She got indebted spendthrifts. She wanted the British people to be like her father, but they turned out more like her son.
If you want to know why getting to FI is hard in a consumer society, well, you know know who to blame for making all the credit available. Hopefully in her next life, Thatcher will be a clerk in a Money Shop as penance. Your house is the biggest consumer good you buy…
3 – ending the building societies’ monopoly on home loans
Monopolies are a bad thing, right? It was tough to get a mortgage in the 1960s and 70s – I recall my Dad putting on a suit (he was a fitter, so it looked odd) in supplication to borrow £500 in the 1960s.
in the 1970s building societies operated a kind of ‘cartel’ where their national association met periodically to ‘recommend’ the interest rates to be paid on savings and charged on mortgages. Although it stopped just short of outright price fixing, compliance with these recommendations was pretty much universal. It’s supposed that the main reason this was tolerated by the government was because it helped keep a lid on the mortgage rate while so much else was spiralling out of control.
Ain’t the free market a wonderful thing, eh, giving us the cornucopia of joy and delight that is the modern housing market in the UK? I love the pragmatism of those postwar governments, sometimes you have to look the other way because the results of purist thinking can lead to a rapacious evil stalking the land 😉 Just think of the upside though – you can probably get a mortgage even going in in ripped jeans and a T shirt. Progress indeed, even if you can never earn enough in a working life to pay off the loan. It’s one of those funny things about free markets. People are always at pains to tell you about the things they have improved – we have a better telephone service, electricity is cheaper and more available than it was under Art, we got consumer goods coming out of our ears and British homes are better insulated. And people live longer. All of this is good, and fantastic.
On the debit side of the equation is the social cohesion of our societies has been shattered because everybody has to move to chase increasingly precarious work, ever fewer Britons can afford to buy those damned homes and the gamification of modern life pits us all against each other in a dog-eat-dog world. Maybe the watchword is balance, here, between the winner-takes-all of free-market fundamentalism and the paternalism of the postwar consensus built from an era when Britons collectively withstood overwhelming odds.
Thatcher laid the foundations for a borked housing market, Others were merely accessories to the crime
Other people also did their bit. F’rinstance, the peculiar piece of f*ckwittery that pole-axed the neophyte Ermine was the 1988 Lawson Budget that announced that he would be making the £30,000 MIRAS limit apply to a house, not per borrower. Being the gentleman that he was, Nigel Lawson gave the market notice, that this would happen in August.
A stupid Ermine, having arrived in a new town being spat out of London where I couldn’t buy, started looking in this market, and projected the same London shadows against the cave wall in the flickering swansong, along with every other stupid prick who shouldn’t have been licensed to drive a ten pound note, never mind permitted to pledge 25 years of mortgage payments. And at least the others were couples who had an extra £30k of MIRAS to defray against the overpayment, which at an income tax rate of 25% was worth a decent £7500 a year. Here’s a report of those times, with the benefit of a decade of hindsight –
As 1988 began, the property market looked – to use a phrase from that era – unassailable. The year started with the average London house worth pounds 81,452, up an astonishing 50 per cent on the figure just two years earlier. Buying property looked like a sure way to make money. Many young people, fearing it might have been their last chance to get on the property ladder, clubbed their wages together and borrowed to the hilt. Lenders, desperate to maintain their market share, fell over themselves to accept business they would not even consider today.
Ian Darby, of independent mortgage advisers John Charcol, says: “It was an extraordinary period. House prices were steaming ahead and the only way it was affordable to buy for a lot of people was to join up as couples or join with friends.
“What it did was draw a lot of people into the market who weren’t ready for home ownership. There were a lot of people with no savings and no history of affording large debt repayments. At that time you could have sold mortgages with a sandwich board on your back.”
It is, of course, different this time. Oh yes it is. It’s always different this time. Until it’s not. Then it’s the SOSDD. We’ve seen this movie before. But I hadn’t, so I bought into the single fastest annual rise in house prices in my entire adult life. Well done me, eh? There’s no point in making colossal mistakes if you don’t learn from the blighters, though. History may not repeat, but it does rhyme, and now feels like a refrain of 1988…
Let’s take a look at some of the accessories to the crime
Some nasty sorts point the finger at immigration. Sad fact is that Britain seems to need immigration to keep the wheels of industry running, since we love our children so much we don’t have the balls to tell them when they are going wrong, since everybody’s a winner and needs their self-esteem boosted.
As a result our companies look elsewhere. Bring back norm referencing, eh? If you look at the Table 3 of this ONS doc net migration is about 243,000 p.a. over the last ten years, roughly comparable to the result of people having the temerity to live longer than they used to1 at 210,000. As evidence I cite this. London is a very successful city by all accounts. You only have to get off the train and open your ears to observe that maybe some of the residents drumming up this economic success weren’t educated in Britain’s schools.
It’s a symptom, not a cause. Just like haters gonna hate, lenders gonna lend. The beauty about housing from their point of view is that while it’s possible to stop buying consumer shit, living in a bender in the woods or living in a car gets really old really fast. I haven’t tried the bender, but the car gets tough in days, not decades 🙂 BTL is the way to keep a load on the lending machine so it doesn’t rev up and spin out of control, like the American version did in 2007-9. As we all know, that ended so well. That’s. of. course. not. going. to. happen. here. Rrrrright….
BTL is popular because it’s lucrative – Britain’s army of 1.6million BTL landlords have collectively outperformed Warren Buffet with an annual return of 16% But remember this is still a highly leveraged market. Any leveraged asset carries a latent risk of a turkey distribution.
It’s very easy for a novice investor to focus on return on investment (ROI) and indeed BTL is the dog’s bollocks it seems, 16% beats the 5% average TR on equities into a cocked hat. Old stagers, however, have usually learned through bitter experience that return of investment also matters. The jury is out on the true total return of leveraged BTL since the first BTL mortgages appeared in 1996 because the BTLers are still subject to margin calls, just like homeowners were in the early 1990s. I saw what that margin call looks like – the neighbours on both sides of me were repossessed, though one jumped first.
Nearly 1000 years ago a French geezer came in and seized ownership of Britain, and the descendant aristocracy still owns a third of the land in Britain, and fights tooth and nail to prevent this inconvenient truth being recorded in the cadastral records of the country, such as they are. Iniquitous as this is, modern living is about cities, and it is the kicking that Thatcher delivered to house building that hits the supply side. Britain is not hugely short of land, though I do wonder where we are going to grow food once the oil runs out. The remaining 100 harvests from our rapacious abuse of the soil are probably going to see me out, though your kids and grandkids may have an issue with that. That is a different rant.
Is basically the reason why the average Briton is getting relatively poorer with time and inequality is rising, because Capital has got Labour by the short-and-curlies, and will probably carry on for a generation or two until living standards equalise with what we used to call the Third World, whose living standards have been improving dramatically since the 1970s. In the end that’s the Faustian pact the consumers of the West made – they wanted cheap iPods and DVD players, and accepted that their kids would be poorer than they were. This hits the earning side of the equation, and why BTL had to be invented, because first-time buyers weren’t earning enough to feed the Beast.
We are becoming increasingly antisocial barstewards, wanting to live as singletons in our houses2, from this alone we need 25% more housing units to store the same number of people as in 1971. I know one fellow who rattles around in a four-bedroom house on his own. There were three families in the house I was born in, this is almost unheard of now. Curiously enough reversing this trend is one of the ways some people are addressing this in London.
Wot no Ermine BTL empire?
BTL is a sure-fire way to earn a better ROI than Warren Buffett, and I am probably better off than Connie (though not for long, natch, as her Buffett-beating BTL empire leaves me standing). But there’s no BTL line in my spreadsheets. I have learned a bitter truth through crashes in two asset classes. When everybody around you is saying this will go on for ever, just because, and teachers like Connie are thinking they are better off investing in something rather than sticking with the day job, then I need to put on my finest pair of running shoes and run like hell the other way. In investing, run towards fire and run away from the sound of flowing champagne. If you can only do one of those things, run away from the champagne.
I was viciously bitten by British housing as a young man, and despite every man jack saying that BTL is the closest thing to a legal money printing press in your basement I’ve had the experience of leveraged property when it goes wrong. There’s a turkey distribution on offer here IMO and I am mindful of the words of Warren Buffet on LTCM
To make the money they didn’t have and they didn’t need, they risked what they did have and did need–that’s foolish, that’s just plain foolish. If you risk something that is important to you for something that is unimportant to you, it just does not make any sense. I don’t care whether the odds are 100 to 1 that you succeed, or 1,000 to 1 that you succeed.
I don’t need the extra wedge BTL could most probably give me, so I’m just not gonna drink the water from that well. The best of British luck to y’all, and may the devil take the hindmost.
So what’s going to happen to house prices then?
Obvious, innit? They will go up like gangbusters. Until they don’t, and then it will all go titsup with a big bang. We will have the papers full of misery and tears about negative equity and how it’s so damned unfair. I was an actor in the last showing of this movie, early 1990s.
The big problem with housing is that you need to get into the asset class somewhere in your 20s and 30s unless you plan to become a snail or tortoise. The market cycles, however, are slow and ponderous, much longer than other asset class cycles because of all the feedback mechanisms fiddling with it – maybe 20 years or so before exploding bubbles finally overwhelm the forces trying to stop them popping. That’s a very large proportion of your working life, and you have absolutely zero control of when you enter it – that was set when your parents made the beast with two backs. If you happen to come along in the latter stages of the market then your finances will be blighted permanently because unlike shares you can’t sit out the market – you’re in it as an occupier or a tenant. The only people who have any elective choice or control of their exposure to the housing market are people who own more houses than they need. They can choose to buy more, or to sell off some of their estate.
There is one thread running through the whole sorry story. The price of housing is set by government. Look at what the government is doing, and take appropriate action.
- inferred from the excess of births over deaths, an underestimate given that the birthrate is lower than replacement level over the same timeframe ↩
- some of us are getting old and dying off, and we pack fewer children into more space – children sharing rooms were widespread when I was growing up whereas now it’s probably against their yuman rites ↩