It’s no secret that house prices in the UK are rising. In fact, figures released by Halifax earlier this month show that prices have risen by 9.5% in the last 12 months. The average UK home now comes with a £261,743 price tag. But while that’s good news for homeowners, it also exacerbates growing inequalities when it comes to housing wealth and ownership.
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Who benefits from rising house prices?
Homeowners have enjoyed regular and often spectacular increases in house prices. Those rises have led to significant gains for the so-called baby boomers of the 1940s and 50s. Figures from the Resolution Foundation show that this group benefitted from an £80,000 windfall in the 20 years to 2014. For those born in the 1970s, that increase in wealth earned through property is less than half of that figure (£35,000).
For today’s first-time buyers, gaining any wealth from property can feel like a pipe dream compared to the generations before them. In the 1960s, it took just over two years to save for a deposit. In 2021, it can take more than six and a half years according to online home-buying platform Yes Homebuyers.
What other inequalities do rising house prices cause?
Of course, rising house prices and the struggle for younger people to climb the property ladder is well known. Less well documented are the ethnic inequalities that shape the accrual of property wealth.
Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) on behalf of Bloomberg reveals that homeowners of Indian heritage earned a median net value of £176,000 from land and property ownership. The groups ranked second were homeowners of White British, and Pakistani heritage, both with net values of £115,000.
Other groups had significantly less property wealth, with other Asian groups accruing an average of £50,000. However, in stark contrast to all other groups measured, the average net property value accrued by Black British homeowners was exactly zero.
Why are there such vast inequalities?
A number of reasons for this inequality are cited. One is that the majority of Black Britons (60%) live in London, where average house prices stood at £501,000 in January 2021. Asian homeowners, on the other hand, tended to be spread more evenly across the country where house prices vary considerably.
Black workers were also more likely to be employed in low-paid jobs with little long-term security. Coupled with the high cost of living in London, that leaves little surplus cash to save for a house deposit.
To put that value of savings and assets into context, for every £1 of White British wealth, those of Black African or Bangladeshi heritage have just 10p.
Can these inequalities be addressed?
Rising house prices and the accrual of that wealth benefit particular groups. The inequality that exists is just a side effect of far deeper inequalities embedded within society.
For example, research conducted by the Resolution Foundation shows that male Black graduates earn 17% less compared to White men. Female Black graduates earn 9% less than White women.
Sadly, the answer to the question of who benefits from rising house prices will continue to be the same until we can address wider social injustices that impact the long-term prosperity of us all.
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