House 1: I am a 4 bedroomed house with a large garden, occupied by a couple in their 70s. They bought me in the 1970s with a mortgage based on the husband’s income alone. They own me outright. I am now worth 15 times what they originally paid for me. Their two grown up children are raising families of their own in other towns, but twice a year they come back to visit and I am full of laughter and noise again.
For the rest of the year, the couple who live here have three more bedrooms than they really need and a lot more garden than they can manage.
A think-tank has suggested that the couple should be given tax incentives to move to a smaller home. Perhaps one with only two spare bedrooms rather than three. Maybe a stamp duty rebate? It’s just a suggestion. No one will be coerced or punished for not moving. It’s just free money if you do. Think about it, eh?
(Naturally the couple who live here are outraged by the disrespect for the older generation that this idea displays).
Follow the discussion here:
House 2: I am a small two-bedroomed social housing flat. My occupiers are a couple in their early thirties. They long to have children but the husband’s long term illness rules this out now. He does not work due to his disability. His wife is his full time carer. Both are on benefits. Two days a week they look after, for free, her young niece so that her sister can go out work. I like those days the best – I am at my liveliest then, and I can see that my occupiers like to be close to their niece and are pleased to help out.
The govt regards me as under-occupied because I have a ‘spare’ room. My occupiers must move out. If they do not do so their benefits will be reduced. There are no local one-bedroomed flats available so my occupiers will have to relocate to another town. They will no longer be able to care for their niece, whose mother will – in turn – lose her job. It’s a shame I suppose but why should taxpayers money pay for a half-empty house?
Consider this issue here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/oct/23/social-housing-windows-welfare…
House 3: I am a large family home in a lovely seaside location. I say ‘family home’ but I don’t actually have a family that lives in me all the time. ‘My’ family lives somewhere else, but they bought me as an investment holiday let which means that for 70 days of the year and sometimes more, other families do come and stay in me. That’s nice. The rest of the time I am empty. There are 245,000 other houses a bit like me. Empty most of the year. We’re a bit like spare bedrooms in a way. Only we’re ‘spare houses’. When my family first bought me they used to say that I was “a luxury from which it was hard to derive a significant income”. But now that’s changed. I have become a “year-round investment”.
That sounds good, doesn’t it? Although it might be nice to be actually lived in all the time.
Still there are already lots of good tax breaks for having a spare house.
Find out more about them here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/7948047/Number-of-second-h…
So to summarise:
If you are in social housing and have one spare room, shape up or ship out. We’ll take your benefits away to help you focus your mind.
If you own your own home and have more than two spare rooms, have a think about whether you might want to downsize. If you do, there’s some money in it for you.
If you’re part of the 1% of households* that’s got a whole spare house, well just keep on making the most of those tax breaks.
The Tale of Three Houses. In case you’re wondering…it’s the worst of times.
(*Calculated on the basis that there are approx 245,000 second homes in the UK and approx 25million households. Roughly.)