Young people’s housing aspirations being failed by capital’s broken housing market

CIH Scotland’s deputy director Callum Chomczuk examines how the aspiration of young people and people on lower incomes to have their own home is being failed by the capital’s broken housing market.

Home ownership is increasingly out of reach, with young people expected to save large deposits in order to access mortgage finance. The average house price in Edinburgh topped £261,000 last month and first time buyers at the lower end of the market can expect to pay an average of £142,000 for a one bedroom flat.
Young people looking to buy in the capital are also facing tough competition with the average time to sell down to just 16 days, homes selling above the home report value and increasing demand from investors cashing in on short term lets which can deliver greater returns than a traditional private tenancy.
Analysis of popular letting platform Airbnb shows that of the 9,638 homes listed in September last year, 57% were available as entire homes, not just spare rooms being let out. More than a third of the entire home rentals are managed by professional hosts with more than one rental listed. This conversion of residential homes into holiday lets can be detrimental to communities, push prices up and reduce the options available for people who want to live and work in Edinburgh.
There is also an increasing gap between homeownership rates for different groups in society.  Of those who own their home outright or have a mortgage, only 2% are lone parents and 5% are large families, while 21% are couples with no dependent children and 18% are of pension age.
And the problem is not just about access to homeownership – the proportion of young households (16-34) living in the private rented sector in Edinburgh has grown steadily from 31% in 1999/2000 to 59% in 2016. The average cost of renting privately in Edinburgh has now reached £740 per month for a one bedroom home or £956 for two bedrooms.
The rising cost of housing in the private rented sector and cuts to benefits for private renters means that many are struggling to afford the essentials and risk eviction if they can’t keep up with rental payments. Last year 637 16-24 year olds presented as homeless in the capital.
For decades, we have failed to build enough new and affordable homes to meet the needs of young people.
This is being partly addressed through the current Scottish Government capital programme. However, it takes time to undo years of under capacity, and as such, the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is getting bigger all the time.
For many young people, a home of their own is a distant dream – and in the meantime they find themselves renting in a sector where, in many places, rents are equally unaffordable.
The market is failing Scotland’s young people.
We need politicians to meet the housing aspiration of these young people; whatever their circumstance and wherever they live.
This could mean a secure tenancy for a single person who has just got their first job, an affordable flat in a city for a young professional who is beginning their career, or a young couple looking to buy their first home. Each wants to have a place they can call home. This means we need to focus on not simply constructing houses but building communities and homes where every one of these people might aspire to live.
We need to make housing more affordable and that means building more homes of all tenures – for ownership, shared ownership, private rent, mid market and social rent.
This can’t be achieved through the same old politics. There remain a number of structural barriers that stop us building to the scale we need, most notably the cost of land. CIH Scotland wants to see all parties commit to ending the housing crisis within a generation and (as much as possible) take the politics out of housing. As a start, this means at least matching the current commitment of delivering 50,000 affordable homes across Scotland through to the next Parliamentary term. If the current level of investment was maintained, it would mean funding for another 5,000 affordable homes for Edinburgh from 2021.
We need to address the underlying costs of housing and match this with meaningful supply. No small feat, but if decision makers respond effectively, they may be remembered as the generation that met the challenge of Scotland’s housing crisis.