The old saying that ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’ is becoming a bit of a problem….

EML identified six key aspects of life that, when well managed and carefully balanced over the long term, offer the best prospect for a happy and prosperous life.  Valuing possessions is one and for most people their home, be it rented or owned, and its contents, is top of the list.  Over recent decades this has given rise to a number of national traits:
  • the rise of DIY as a major leisure activity
  • a obsession with house prices and house price inflation
  • the sale of of council houses
  • the negative equity trap
  • social progress linked with ’moving up the property ladder’
  • Hoarding
  • ‘Empty nesters’ staying put
  • House ownership has become a cornerstone of estate planning.
It is these last three that are causing the problem.
In a time of rapid change being able to value your possessions  – and identify those with no real value to you – is a key skill.  For those who experienced post war austerity this is a challenge.  They were brought up being told to hold on to everything ‘just in case’ – but if you keep everything you do not learn what is important and instead assume everything must be.  For many of that generation prosperity meant moving to larger houses which afforded extra storage space.   Now they face the prospect of sorting through 50 years of accumulated junk and the task is beyond them.  As a result there are many large properties around the country that are not only seriously under occupied, but whose owners are struggling to maintain them – solely to preserve their junk!
Empty nesters are not necessarily hoarders, but they enjoy the same surplus of space.  The family has grown and flown and they know they should downsize but with the mortgage paid there is no compelling financial reason so it is easy enough to delay the move.  Whatever the reason, under occupied houses are a major contributor to the national housing shortage.
The most recent contributor to the UK housing crisis is a spectacular ‘own goal’ by the government in the latest budget.  Offering additional inheritance tax breaks only to home owners who pass their properties on to their immediate families is encouraging all the wrong behaviours – retaining a house that is under occupied, not suited to the needs of the elderly, expensive to maintain purely so it can be passed on to someone who probably doesn’t want or need it is simply bonkers!    It:
Ties up under occupied housing
Places the elderly in accommodation that may be unsuited to their needs
Is expensive to run and maintain
Nice one George!