Is owning your own home a dream for young Norfolk families?

Who would ever want to look into the future?

Yesterday it rained heavily in Norwich, but by 5pm there was a clear blue sky and the sun was shining.

Yet we've always known the weather can be unpredictable.

But what about the prospects of the next generation – is it really all storm clouds or should we be optimistic for a better, brighter tomorrow?

A National Centre for Social Research report out yesterday warned that half of people think that Britain will become a nation of renters within a generation as young people have given up on the dream of home ownership.


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The idea of our homes being our castles is rooted in the English mindset – in contrast to our continental cousins who seem much more relaxed about renting.

But lack of cash means that the fortress walls are crumbling and instead the report warns of the creation of a so-called 'Generation Rent'

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Homes are too costly and there do not seem to be enough of them – despite the best efforts our planners with their so-called joint core strategies and development briefs.

But the banks are not lending either, thanks to their previous excesses and the seizing up of the system thanks to the credit crunch.

And future first-time buyers may well be struggling to raise their deposits because they are trying to pay off their �9,000 university tuition fees, or can't convince the banks to lend them any money because they are only on a short-term contract.

And they may as well forget about their pensions, they'll probably have to work until they drop anyway.

It all seems a bit bleak, really. But is it really that bad?

Perhaps we should all just carrying on ordering the lattes and patisseries and not worrying about it all?

Alison Blackwell, from the National Centre for Social Research, which compiled the report for Halifax, warned that the phenomenon of Generation Rent could have major socio-economic implications, beyond just owning a home.

'People in Generation Rent risk insufficient finances at retirement,' she added.

Meanwhile to add to the doom and gloom housing charity Shelter also released its own report investigating how the cost of housing is impacting on 18-34 year olds, which warned of an entire generation priced out of a home of their own and forced to rely on others and accept limited chances in life due to the sky-high costs.

The charity commissioned a YouGov survey which found that high housing costs are affecting the ability of one in four 18-34 year olds to move for work, while 22pc of 18-34 year olds have been forced to move back in or continue living with their parents because they can't afford to rent or buy their own home, while 20pc are delaying having children until they can afford to buy or rent their own home, forcing them to give up on the hope of having a family of their own anytime soon.

Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said: 'It used to be the accepted path for young people that you grew up, moved out of the family home and started a life of your own.

'What this research shows is a fundamental shift in society, with young people today unable to make the same life choices as their parents and being robbed of the opportunity to lead full and independent lives.

'Yes housing has always been a major expense, but never before has a generation been faced with having to pay such a high proportion of their spending on a home of their own, whether renting or buying. And what is so heartbreaking is that we are not just talking about this generation, but about future generations too unless we see some fundamental and immediate changes.

'There is a complete absence of any strategy as to how we are going to solve these absolutely fundamental issues. The government must act now and set out its plan for addressing our housing crisis, or face this and future generations being completely priced of a place to call their own.'

Dr Keven Williams, lecturer in strategy at the University of East Anglia Business School, said: 'On the face of it, it does sound a bit bleak. I don't think it's all doom and gloom as there does tend to be a cyclical nature to these things.

'The recent financial crisis and government action meant there was a lack of competition in the market place and lenders are under pressure to build up their reserves.

'I'm fairly certain that as everybody feels more confident about the future, lenders will start relaxing some of their rules.

'The success of the post-war welfare state means that people are living longer, but that gives more time for people to build up their pensions.'

Sean Kent, executive of Freebridge Housing, said: 'I certainly think it's not an easy situation for somebody trying to get on the home ownership ladder right now.

'If you just look at the house prices and sales you can sense that. What housing associations are trying to do is look at different ways of helping people to start off renting and then putting some of that rent into equity. There were a number of schemes that were around a few years ago, but some of these have become less easy to deliver since the banking crisis because from the banks' perspective they are seen as more risky products.

'But we are starting to hear of people talking about them again and I think there will be some opportunities in the coming years.'

Stuart Clancy, economic development portfolio holder for Broadland District Council said help is available on the ground.

'I believe from my heart, my head and my experience that young people can be helped into jobs and into a career path that will support them, but that too many slip through the net,' he said. 'People will change jobs more frequently as employment trends change, but employers will always need people with relevant experience and the skills and training to match.'

So are these problems for the future, or for the hear and now? Perhaps the sun will really shine, but we should keep the brollies, just in case.

shaun.lowthorpe@archant.co.uk

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