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What happens when all the old people die?

June 7, 2008

finance

My colleague recently wrote an article on all the conflicting reports about the UK house market that seemed to be in circulation. Sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down and sometimes it’s hardly going anywhere at all.

This week in the news, I recall watching a television programme about the shortage of new housing in London and how the government felt houses needed to be built on green-belt land. Last year I used to work in a rural part of Scotland called Dumfries and Galloway. The county has historically offered very cheap housing, but that’s quickly changing due to the number of golden oldie couples choosing to spend their retirement years in this part of Scotland. Many of these golden oldie couples have bought large houses, part of which they then use as holiday accommodation – seeing this as “pocket money”.

In principle I have nothing against people doing this, but the fact that Dumfries & Galloway is becoming a retirement ground is driving house prices up and driving the young people out. This county actually has the space for new houses and if only it had better transport links to Glasgow and Edinburgh, it could be a really prosperous area. However, given that the politicians are incapable of free thought outside London or Edinburgh, it remains unrealistic for most working age people to live in rural locations, which is so frustrating when you look at the dismal grey splurge emerging out of some of the UK’s largest cities.

These mature property buyers, after driving out the working age population, will find insufficient numbers of carers in look after them in their old age and when they finally die, they will leave their property in ghost towns. Perhaps yuppie couples will take over, but they’re likely to do considerable commuting, still adding very little to the local area.

I don’t think there is a shortage of housing in the UK, just an extremely inefficient use of space. It’s easy to come up with new projects, it’s less easy to do something positive and creative with existing ones.

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