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We Are In Danger Of Creating A Culture Where People And Businesses Have An Ever-Diminishing Stake In The Future Of Society

31/03/2017 11:40

It was the 18th century philosopher Edmund Burke who argued that private property was the basis of social order, an incentive to hard work and a route to national prosperity. Burke also believed that widespread access to acquiring property would act as powerful check on the power of the state and elites. 
 
Close to three hundred years later, the arguments of Burke seem increasingly relevant. 
 
Today a generation of Millennials face being priced out of owning private property, with the prospect of buying a first home a distant dream for too many. 
 
A recent report by PWC found that young renters without help from the Bank of Mum and Dad may have to wait as long as 18 years until they save the average deposit needed to buy their first home. 
 
The proportion of young people privately renting has more than doubled from 20% to 50% since the millennium.
 
And research carried out by the Post Office found the age at which first-time buyers expect to buy their first home has risen to 35 years old. This compares to 24 years old in the 1960s. 
 
Why does this matter? Owning a home gives people security, a sense of place and worth and a stake in community and a good society.  We have to wonder what the effects on society are when a generation of people is priced out of owning a home and widespread access to acquiring property becomes narrower and narrower?
 
They say an Englishman's home is his castle. What happens when that castle becomes unacquirable to swathes of society? 
 
And it's not just property where more and more of us no longer own things. We live in an increasingly subscription based culture where you can get endless items on credit or lease. Why buy a car and pay road tax and insurance when you can rent one by the hour with one click of an app on your phone? You can now even rent power tools by the day. 
 
Look, this extends into the world of business too. Uber, the world's largest taxi company, owns no cars. Airbnb, the world's largest accommodation company, owns no property.
 
We are in danger of creating a culture where people and businesses have an ever diminishing stake in the future of society. 
 
We know that young people already feel increasingly disengaged and disenfranchised. A Sky News survey found that 59% of young people have little or no confidence politicians will address the issues that matter most to them. 
 
Now more than ever it is crucial that the government and civil society as a whole do more to engage our youngsters. From Brexit to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of America, we have seen what can happen when people feel forgotten and ignored by those with power. 
 
One way the government can do this is to ensure people have a personal stake in the country's future. It should constantly be looking to incentivise people to buy their own homes. While it has launched schemes such as Help to Buy, which had some success in helping first time buyers with small deposits, building more homes within the financial reach of ordinary people is essential. 
 
I also know that it's easy to just point to government for all the answers. As quid pro quo, we need to encourage longer term thinking in our youngsters and a move away from the here and now, instant gratification culture. Government needs to do more to help, but there's no getting away from the reality that you need to sacrifice and save as well.  Fostering long term thinking from a young age, whether on savings or career choices can only pay dividends in the long run. 

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