The government is currently busying itself trying to win retrospective Commons votes on Theresa May’s Syria intervention and clearing up the Home Office’s Windrush mess. But should they have time for some morning reading, today’s Resolution Foundation research on millenials’ property prospects ought to give cause for alarm.
The think tank predicts that one in three millennials will never own their own home. Instead, they will have to live – and potentially raise families – in privately rented accommodation throughout their lives. And that’s before we get to what happens when they stop working and rely on a pension. What’s more, half of current UK 20-35-year-olds are expected to be renting in their 40s.
This has big implications for the Conservative party. The most existential threat facing the Conservative party is the death of the dream of property ownership. It’s long been relied upon in Tory circles that although younger voters lean left, they tend to verge right once they get on the property ladder. In the snap election, Labour were ahead in every voting age category from 40-year-olds down. This is no coincidence.
Figures such as Sajid Javid insist that the government is taking the issue of housing very seriously indeed. However, for many in the Conservative party May’s response is not nearly sufficient to the scale of the problem. What tends to happen is that the Prime Minister grows concerned about upsetting core voters by building on the green belt and then the Chancellor grows concerned about borrowing to build. This means the two most likely routes to fix the problem are traded for an unhappy compromise.
There’s another thing here too. The housing crisis is not the fault alone of the Tory party – despite what Jeremy Corbyn might say to the contrary. It’s an issue that has been growing in size for years – under Labour governments too. But a lot of how the Tories will be judged on their response comes down to optics. Nine cabinet ministers, including May, make more than £10,000 a year by acting as landlords. This in itself isn’t a problem but it does mean they ought to make extra careful they are seen to take tenants’ points of view into account.
Then there’s things that are just foolish like the trouble Jeremy Hunt found himself in last week after he admitted breaking money-laundering rules to buy seven luxury flats. Money-laundering rules aside, it’s bizarre that a man who apparently harbours leadership ambitions thought it was a good idea to set up a buy-to-let luxury property firm at a time when a large chunk of the electorate are struggling to get on the property ladder. It follows that some Tories don’t yet seem to have grasped the size of the problem – nor the needs of Generation Rent.