When looking at statistics it is easy to lose sight of the needs of individual people.
In Grantham at present only 17 per cent of the homes currently on the market for sale are considered ‘affordable’ according to Shelter. Yet, Grantham has not only among the lowest average wages in the country but also the EU. So 83 per cent of homes available for sale are out of the reach of ‘affordability’ for most local people.
Nick Boles MP has proudly boasted how he has encouraged new development nationally. Who are the new homes for? New homes are desperately needed, but they need to be in a price range that can be afforded by the majority of people – not just the minority.
For the first time last year new home ownership fell since Census records began. However, the ‘housing crisis’ described by Shelter is a reflection of a much broader issue. Over the last four years the level of inequality in our country has significantly grown. Directors may now receive up to 100 per cent of their salary in bonuses. In the worst case a top 100 FTSE director may receive over 1,200 times the average salary of their lowest paid employee. There is something fundamentally immoral about such an income gap when you consider the impact this has on the quality of life for those struggling to survive on a daily basis, especially when the ‘green shoot’ bonuses and pay awards of the directors do not necessarily relate to the success of their business and can harm recovery. We all pay the price in increased benefit payments and pressures on our system as money in our local economy shrinks and poverty bites.
The lack of affordable homes has a huge impact on those affected. Young people cannot leave home, or start families. More people are likely to get divorced and families under financial pressure more likely to fragment. More pensioners now are working. The issue affects working and non-working people alike as salaries and welfare benefits have risen only a small amount over the last decade but housing costs and private rented accommodation costs have increased.
I am currently working with a former member of our armed forces. Despite being prepared to give his life for our country, and, despite being in receipt of a pension relating to injuries during his service, his disability allowance was recently taken away from him. He is now facing homelessness.
It is ironic and shameful that one hundred years on, after the end of WW1 the way we treat people is little better than then. The social advancement of a century is under attack. If the current Government has its way, things will get even worse in the next swathe of cuts.