In early 2005 I had to move house, when my then-landlady decided she wanted to sell the place and gave me notice to quit. Flat-hunting under pressure of time is a very bad idea, and the place I found has turned out to be miserable due to noise from all around.
At that point I put myself on the council’s list for social housing. Not with any expectation of getting it (I lack “politically correct” points to give me priority), but more to make my little contribution to their statistics. Being a rural area, the actual numbers are low enough for another one person to make a significant difference.
Anyway, I’ve just got a letter and application form for what they call “shared equity” housing. It means you get to buy a share – like half – of a property, with the other half being owned by the social housing people. In effect it’s a large interest-free loan. And it’s transferable to a future owner.
Now, in part it’s like real ownership. You get a share of house price changes. You’re allowed to do the place up as you want it. But there are strings attached. You can’t let it out if, for example, you go away for a few months or a year (so that’ll be more empty properties and pressure on housing – though only marginally). You can’t sell your stake in the open market: if you want to sell, they set the value, and they find a buyer. Worst, you don’t get a ‘normal’ choice of where to live: these properties are all on a dreary new estate. Housing in the UK built in the past 100 years is worth avoiding.
The main attraction: it probably will be quite a lot quieter than the present place. That’s really worthwhile. And at a price that’ll enable me to survive a bad year. Against that is the location, soullessness, and being tied to an institutionalised set of expectations about one’s lifestyle. For instance, I don’t expect they’d let me convert the inevitable parking space into something useful like a secure bike shed and a vegetable patch.
And I expect the question is academic, anyway. I have an application form to fill in, and a bunch of questions that’ll disqualify me. So I can just go on paying taxes and getting nothing back as usual.