UK housing affordability is back on the political smorgasbord menu after a soup of data was released this week.

Bizarrely, the barrage of information from multiple sources was somewhat conflicting and as a result, consumers were left confounded as to whether things were getting better or worse.

Two days ago, the peak industry body for affordable housing, the National Housing Federation (NHF), referred to an ‘impending crisis’ unless the Government takes immediate action.

The NHF predicts UK house prices may rise by more than 20% in the next five years leaving many would-be mortgagees sitting reluctantly on the sidelines.

Despite the cries of mortgage hunters “requiring 25% deposits”; on the same day UK banks were able to partly offset their role in this so-called crisis with the Bank of England reporting almost 50,000 new mortgages being approved in July (but not yet lent) – 3% higher than in 2010 and the third month in a row where there has been a year-on-year monthly increase.

Meanwhile, Office of National Statistics data revealed 79,000 homes were actually bought/sold in July (excludes those only at approval stage) – a significant shortfall compared to long-term trends.

On another level, new data reveals overall consumer debt levels are down in the UK – this encompasses mortgages, personal loans, credit cards and student debt etc.

UK consumer debt has receded from its peak in September 2008 when British consumers owed £236.8 billion – today it stands at £209.4 billion.

So what is the reality of the UK mortgage market? The honest answer is that it’s difficult to say.

One explanation of substance for the conflicting data is the UK, like many other countries at present appears to resemble a country with a two-speed economy.

This creates huge problems for any nation.

In a country with distinct haves and have nots, if the split economy referenced above does not allow for a trickle-down/redistribution of wealth from the haves to the vacuum of the have-nots than a damaging dichotomy will exist.

If left unchecked this dichotomy, over time, is highly likely to divide society and lead to a whole range of social ills and problems… such as riots.

Perhaps, perhaps not. Of course not every would-be first home buyer is going to go on an LCD and sports shoe grabbing rampage in the event of being declined a mortgage.

However, the long-term impacts the NHF, which represents more than 1,200 local housing associations drew on the following in its argument for the Government to better assist people currently off the property ladder.

Insufficient affordable housing stock, poor saving levels, high deposits required by banks, almost one million adrift young adults (NEETs – Not in employment, education or training) and not enough new properties being built are just some of the factors the NHF believes are combining to severely hamper the ability of first time buyers to get their foot onto the property ladder.


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