That isn’t a typo, of the 89,984 households in Northampton, 30,085 of those properties don’t only have one spare bedroom, but two spare bedrooms! … and it is this topic I want to talk about this week, my Northampton Property Market Blog readers – because this could be the cure for Northampton’s housing crisis. The fundamental problem of the Northampton housing ‘crisis’, is the fact that the supply of homes to live in has not historically met demand, increasing property values (and in turn rents), thus ensuring home ownership becomes an unattainable ambition for the twenty something’sof Northampton.
Call me a realist, but it’s obvious that either demand needs to drop or supply needs to rise to stop this trend getting worse for the generations to come. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Downing Street’s plans to build 200,000 starter homes which will be offered to first time buyers under 40 with a minimum 20% discount price. However, the building of starter homes on current building sites, where new homes builders already have to build a certain number of affordable ‘starter’ homes at the moment under a different scheme, does not increase the stock of new ‘starter’ homes, it simply replaces one affordable scheme with another.
One option that could resolve the housing crisis is if the Government literally looked closer to home, concentrating on matching households with the appropriate sized home.
In Northampton, 61,817 households have one spare bedroom and of these, 30,085 have two or more spare bedrooms.
This compares to 3,897 households in Northampton that are overcrowded (ie there are more people than bedrooms in the property).
Looking specifically at the homeowners of Northampton, 21,738 owner occupied Northampton houses have one spare bedroom. Now having a spare bedroom is not considered a luxury. However, in addition to those 21,738 households with one spare bedroom, there are on top, a further 26,231 owner occupied Northampton households with two or more spare bedrooms.
Therefore, I am beginning to see there is the spare capacity in the Northampton housing market. Principally, I will concentrate on the group that makes up the bulk of this category, the owner occupiers of large properties, in their 60’s and 70’s, where the kids flew the nest back in the 80’s and 90’s. They call it ‘downsizing’, when you sell a big property, where the extra bedrooms are no longer required, to move into a smaller and, usually, less expensive property.
However, there are many explanations why these individuals do not downsize. These people have lived in the same house for 30, 40 even 50 years, and as one matures in life, many people do not want to depart from what they see as the family home. Much time has been invested in making friends in the area and it’s nice to have all those rooms in case every grandchild decided to visit, at the same time, and they brought their friends! But on a more serious note, more and more people are beginning to downsize earlier, but in my opinion, not at a fast enough rate. As the years go one, we will have a situation where younger families will be living in smaller and smaller houses, whilst all the large houses with a couple of 70 something empty-nesters rattling around them! I believe the Government should put more weight behind downsizing, because with the right incentives, many could be encouraged to think again and make the spare rooms available.
.. and it would have to be incentives, as the using the stick (instead of the carrot) would be political suicide for any party, especially the Tory’s. One option is to allow retired downsizers not to pay stamp duty on the new property, saving them thousands of pounds and another for the planners to work with builders to build not only starter homes for under 40’s, but also have housing built just for retired downsizers .. or is this one step too far in ‘social engineering’?
The fact is not enough properties are being built in Northampton, and with population rising at a faster rate, something needs to be done. However, I believe the Northampton population (and in fact the whole of the UK) is slowly turning into a more European model of house ownership. In Europe, most people rent in their 20’s and 30’s, only buying in their 40’s and 50’s, when they inherit money from the sale of their late parent’s property. That works particularly well in Germany and I can’t see why it can’t work here. In the meantime, there is an opportunity in the coming 20 years for people to supplement their pension by buying smaller properties to rent out, as that is where the demand will be in the next few decades in Northampton.