House prices are always a thorny issue

House prices are always a thorny issue

That last one was what I found most interesting because it highlights the key difficulty at the heart of the housing issue: most people (and certainly most voters) are home owners for whom rising prices mean an increase in the value of an asset they own or are in the process of paying off. Therefore any policy which would make it easier for non-home owners to buy their own house would probably mean making existing home owners worse off by lowering house prices.

In our poll we asked whether voters thought rising house prices are a good or bad thing for “me and my family” but also “the country generally”.

Overall, 33% of voters said that rising house prices were good for “me and my family” while 28% said they were bad. For “the country generally”, 38% said rising house prices were bad while 27% said they were good.

When we look at the views of home owners vs. renters, home owners are divided (32% calling rising prices good and 32% bad, 30% neutral) while private renters are more negative (42% calling rising prices bad, 36% neutral, 18% good).

However, the contrasts really appear when we ask about “me and my family”.

Among home owners, understandably, rising prices are seen as good for “me and my family” (47% vs. 15% saying they are a bad thing) while those who are renting from a private landlord, and perhaps either looking to buy their own place or experiencing the effect of high prices via higher rents, are much more negative (61% bad vs. just 6% good).

The difference between “good for me and my family” and “good for the country generally” explains why housing is always going to be a difficult issue for governments. People may not believe that rising house prices are clearly a good thing for the country as a whole but as long as they are personally benefiting from price rises it’ll be awfully hard to convince them to support action that limits that.

The flip side is also that decreasing house prices, or a much worse housing crash, would arguably be actively damaging for far more people, negating any benefit for first time buyers in the general economic misery that would ensue from millions of people being plunged into negative equity. We sadly didn’t ask about whether falling house prices would be good or bad but it gives an idea of how finely balanced this issue is and, therefore, how difficult it will always be for governments to tackle.