Every year since 2009 new records have been set for UK house prices, and every year people have asked how long the market can continue to defy gravity. But this year is different. Mortgage rates have risen steeply, while the cost of living accelerates; the past four months have seen the longest sustained drop in property prices since 2008. And it’s a global issue, as central bankers make borrowing more expensive in an attempt to curb inflation.
Is this a necessary correction or the dawn of a calamitous crash – one that will drive an unaffordable rental market, negative equity and a dearth of social housing? In this definitive account of the property crash, the New Statesman’s business editor, Will Dunn, explores Britain’s doomed love affair with bricks and mortar – from the boomer “house-blockers” at the top of the chain to the Gen Zers with little prospect of buying their own home. “It is a mass exercise in self-deception,” he writes, “a substitute for economic growth. It was a substitute people accepted: the expensive house that sucked up a lifetime’s wages became the savings account, the pension, the inheritance. That wealth is now beginning to dissolve.”
This article was originally published as the magazine’s cover story on 3 February 2023; you can read the text version here.
Written and read by Will Dunn.
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