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Gap widens between housing ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’

The study highlights how a continuing affordability problem has accentuated inequalities with evidence suggesting "it can [make] the children of affluent owners still richer and the poorest even more disadvantaged".

The wealthiest 10% of the population has seen home values rise at more than three times the rate for the poorest 10%; the impact will continue for future generations as vastly differing levels of wealth are inherited by the next generation.

The report also shows that children born to parents who have no or little housing wealth will not benefit from "life start-up" advantages and stand to inherit nothing.

Evidence from studies contained in the report emphasise the important role that parents play in supporting their offspring into home ownership.

This financial assistance may result in the housing market becoming more polarised, with the children of homeowners representing a greater proportion of all new purchasers.

In addition to the widening wealth gap, the study also highlights that:

* High prices have by-products of overcrowding and poor physical and mental health for people priced out of the market or those who risk repossession;

* The housing market’s twin characteristics of high prices and long-term undersupply encourage cycles of boom and bust, which contribute to volatile consumer spending patterns and therefore impact on the wider economy;

* High house prices lead to increased labour costs and problems in recruiting and retaining staff, thereby affecting both the efficiency of the private sector and the delivery of public services;

* Potential first-time buyers either do not purchase – perpetuating inequality and disadvantage – or stretch themselves, buy and risk repossession.

"We are in danger of creating a more polarised society," said Neil McDonald, Chief Executive, NHPAU, "if we fail to tackle our country’s housing affordability problem.

"We commissioned this study because, as a Unit, we were keen to understand how a lack of affordability affects people’s lives beyond the financial.

"We must not be fooled into thinking that the current fall in house prices means the problem is solved. Mortgage rationing means that housing is not more affordable in any real sense. And, in the medium to long term, an undersupply of housing means that affordability will simply worsen once the economy starts to revive."

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