The Real Road to Serfdom

The release of the latest Estate Gazette’s Rich List makes for sobering reading. While living standards for the majority fall, last year saw the largest ever rise in the total wealth of its richest 250 investors to £162.5 billion – an increase of 60%.

A great deal of this rise was due to money flooding into London from overseas. The poor old Duke of Westminster is now relegated to a mere fourth place in the top ten property investors, having been overtaken by Chinese and Swiss-based billionaires. But that’s globalisation for you…

It seems clear that in terms of housing we are in the process of creating a perfect storm in the UK, with the eye of that storm being London. The influx of money at the top end of the London market combined with the risky Help to Buy scheme and the lack of house building (especially affordable housing) is driving up average house prices such that by 2020 average house prices in the capital are expected to be around £650,000

While the picture on property prices outside London is more mixed, there is still a massive problem with soaring rents and the lowest rungs of the property-owning ladder are still way beyond the reach of a growing number of people.

The social effects of this are clear to see – rising inequality and poverty, retarded social mobility and the entrenching of a social caste system delineated most visibly between property owners and the rest. When you take all these factors together, it is no surprise that some people are even beginning to talk of a new age of serfdom. If we are to avoid this leap back to a new middle ages and begin the work of restoring people’s faith in the future (£) then we need bold and decisive action to tackle income and wealth inequality now.

Bill Kerry, Secretary of the Equality Trust