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A lost generation of aspiring homeowners – how do we make sure they are heard?


Written by Kristian Wrenn, Account Executive

Homeownership has been at the heart of British aspirations for generations. The saying ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’ has been around since the 16th century. But in fact, it is only in the last hundred years that most people were able to realise their dream of owning a home.

By 2003, the proportion of people in England who owned their own home had reached an all-time high of 71%. Although the absolute number has stayed about the same, as of 2017 the proportion of homeowners has now fallen to 63%.  Currently, the UK ranks 25th out of 29 European nations for home ownership.  Yes – that means that there is a higher proportion of renters in England than France and Spain!

Most worryingly, among younger people aged 25-34, in just 30 years, the rate of home ownership in England has fallen sharply, from over 50% to 35%.

Is this because young people no longer want to own their own home?  

No. It is not that they do not want to, it’s because many cannot buy a home. So, what changed? Since the 2008 financial crash, house prices, particularly in London and the South East, grew rapidly – meanwhile incomes have remained relatively stagnant. 

Over a million would-be homeowners have been unable to get a foot on the housing ladder.  In 1996, nine out of ten young adults who had saved a 10% deposit could afford to buy a home by borrowing four and a half times their income. Today, only around 60% of young adults can borrow enough to buy even the cheapest home in their area on the same income multiple.

Young Adults are not being heard

What is particularly concerning is that the younger generation that are missing out on the opportunity to own a home are not being heard. 

A recent YouGov poll of nearly 2,300 respondents found that just 11% of young adults have knowingly engaged in Local Plan consultations. The same research found that a further 9% of those aged between 18 and 34 were “unsure” if they had engaged in such a consultation.

Around 51% of respondents who had not taken part in a Local Plan consultation reported that knowing that their contribution would “make a difference” would be a key reason for engaging in the process in future, however this figure rose to 73% among those who had previously participated.

Respondents said other significant incentives which would encourage them to engage included better promotion of the information (41%) and clarity and simplicity of information (37%).

How do we solve it?

So, what can be done to engage the younger generation into the planning process? Social media is a clear starting point, with over 80% of young adults having access to social media. Yet councils rarely, if ever, use social media to advertise a consultation on a planning application or local plan, which is reflected in the level of engagement seen by the younger generation.

A key problem with planning consultations is that they are always steeped in terminology and technical detail. As mentioned earlier, it has been shown that clarity and simplicity in the information is crucial to getting people to respond. That is why making the information shared at consultations easily digestible is very important. Cutting through the heavy detail to make planning easy to understand is such an essential marker of a successful consultation and something we drive to deliver at Cratus. 

As a young person who does not own their own home, I think now more than ever is the time for councils to seize on the opportunity to engage with the community in a way that brings in those who are most effected by the lack of affordable homes. Now is the time to adopt a modern approach in engagement through the online platforms which younger residents use. 

How Cratus can help

Cratus has recognised the need for engagement with not just the younger generation but all sections of the community, and has seized on the opportunity to transform how the industry carries out public consultations. Cratus Engage, our digital consultation tool, allows residents to view information and videos, and provide their feedback on a development scheme via an interactive map. This offers a new avenue for residents to engage in consultations whilst maintaining the traditional way of engagement to reach as many people in the community as possible. 

A whole section of the community is being largely ignored from the consultation process at present.  This will only serve to breed disenchantment and continued disengagement from younger people. Furthermore, this situation has serious implications for both involvement in local democracy and ensuring that council services and local infrastructure are truly meeting the needs of the people they need to help most. In order, to help ensure the homes of the future are serving the needs of the population and enabling young people to get a start on the housing ladder, public consultation has to evolve to reflect the priorities of our current lost generation.

A lost generation of aspiring homeowners – how do we make sure they are heard?