Leader comment: More must be done to tackle home truths

Younger people hoping to get onto the housing ladder face greater challenges than those of preceding generations ever did. Soaring prices combined with far stricter conditions on mortgages mean it might be years before a first-time buyer has a deposit to allow them to move into even the most modest of homes.

More money is going to affordable housing in Edinburgh according to the Scottish Government.
More money is going to affordable housing in Edinburgh according to the Scottish Government.

Some simply will not achieve 
that. Home ownership, something their parents might have seen as a natural stage in life, may remain an unaffordable dream.

In public debate about the lack of affordable housing and the difficulties of securing a loan to buy, the point is often made that the desire to own one’s on home is a peculiarly British obsession. Across Europe, renting – from cradle to grave – is regarded as perfectly normal. Our European neighbours simply do not place the same importance in ownership of the roofs over our heads as we do. Whether they like it or not, the European way has become the norm for increasing numbers of people.

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This being so, a new report that shows private renting has become “completely unaffordable” in some areas of Scotland is deeply concerning. Those who thought they could depend on renting to live near work or family cannot, in fact, always do so.

The Scottish Government paper which makes the claim about the cost of renting unsurprisingly lays the blame for this state of affairs at the feet of Westminster. But simply complaining about welfare reforms will not bring about change to an intolerable situation where rising rental costs are driving young people and the lower paid into debt.

Certainly, there is a debate to be had on whether Universal Credit is exacerbating a problem at the root of which is a desperate lack of affordable housing.

This crisis in housing has implications not just for those directly affected but for us all. It is in nobody’s interest for key workers – those working long and erratic shifts in the NHS, for example – to be priced out of the housing market in the area where they’re employed.

The Scottish Government has committed to investment in affordable housing but unless it steps up a number of gears, it will continue only to dab at a gaping wound.

Progress made on social mobility in recent years will be disastrously undermined if increasing numbers of people become frozen out of the rental market in parts of Scotland.