You’ll have probably heard by now that the number of middle aged renters in the UK has doubled over the last decade. It shouldn’t really be a surprise – people get older, and Britain’s population has been steadily growing since the black death.
The research which yielded this spectacularly un-shocking statistic comes from the Department of Work and Pensions, and the most startling aspect of the report is that middle aged is now classed as between 35 and 54 (If you’ve recently turned 50, you’d better get in line for a walking stick, you old gits).
But what’s the shocker here? People have alway rented – whether from the state, the landed gentry, slumlords, or ordinary everyday landlords who own a few properties and let out the ones they don’t use.
The papers shout their perennial alarm at the rate of house price inflation, and an underpaid graphic designer at the BBC put together a lovely graph comparing the drop in home ownership to the rise in rented properties.
Aside from the fact that two lines are unnecessary as it’s practically a zero sum game, the degree of outrage over the figures is appalling.
This is the United Kingdom, and last time we checked, it was a broadly capitalist society, not some sort of communist utopia (If it was a communist utopia, nobody would own a house).
The point we’re trying to make here is that if you have capital, you can buy whatever the hell you want, provided it’s not illegal to own.
The purpose of money, beyond using it to stay alive, is to make more money. Buying property, renting it out, turning a profit and buying more property is a perfectly respectable business model and a way of life. And if that, in turn, pushes house prices even higher, then that’s all to the good in a capitalist society.
Do you know the home ownership rates in Britain 200 years ago? It was practically zero. The people who already owned assets and had capital to invest were the landlord class and probably some other class to.
Everyone else rented. Everyone. From farm workers in rural Scotland and Ireland to factory workers among the dark satanic mills of London and Lancashire.
And because there wasn’t the incessant push for the lower classes to own their own homes, there wasn’t a relentless pressure pushing house prices and therefore rents upwards.
People without the money to buy even one property should be happy to rent. It means there’s someone competent in charge to look after the fabric of the building and take care of repairs.
Yes, there are potential issues when the now middle-aged tenants retire and can no longer afford to pay the rent on the homes they may have lived in for years or decades, but that’s what social housing is for.
There are thousands of state subsidised rental properties in London alone. Becontree. Putney Vale. Grenfell.
These people have probably paid national insurance for their entire working lives, and the state will take care of them. It is ridiculous to expect the landlord class to have a social responsibility towards tenants who can no longer pay their rent. It is farcical to be outraged or even surprised when capital is used to make a profit.
If what you’re doing with your money is legal, the papers should mind their own damned business.
The author is currently reading about land reform in China and is now hiding in a corner.