A senior Anglican priest has stood up for renting as a concept, and suggests Britain is too pre-occupied with home ownership.
Angela Tilby, a Canon Emeritus of Christ Church in Oxford, says in the Church Times that recent calls by other respected church leaders for more affordable homes are entirely reasonable.
She suggests renting, whether private or from councils or housing associations, is a laudable and respectable tenure, given much higher status in some other countries.
She writes: “There is a strange snobbery about housing in Britain, where it is simply taken for granted that all right-minded people must aspire to owning their own property: hence the mantra of Britain as a property-owning democracy.
“But there is no particular virtue in home-ownership. In Europe and the United States, people rent across the social spectrum.
“Now that mortgages are often beyond the reach even of those earning reasonably good incomes, the aspiration to ownership for all may fade, and this would be a good thing for society as a whole. It might lead to developers’ caring more about the quality of new-build accommodation, whether for private or council let.
“There is no great mystery about what people want in a home: safety, accessibility, a view, access to green space, privacy, and belonging. There is surely a place for ‘reimagining’, as Archbishop Welby puts it, what it means to have a home, not a mere ‘unit’ — a place where human beings thrive as they live and sleep and work and nurture children.”
She goes on to explains that the Peabody estates in London “communicate dignity on a human scale” and enhance the urban landscape and inspire affection from those who live in them.
She continues: “In my pandemic walks, I have crossed several council estates here in Portsmouth. Some feel like communities and look well cared for, but too many are dreary and functional. The mess left in walkways and streets is a clear indicator of what their inhabitants think of them.
“There are blocks of flats where the only decorative features are large panels in primary colours that catch the eye from the road. The message that they send is that the inhabitants are children: the colours are those of the nursery.
“We must stop patronising those who need a home, and who do not or cannot buy into our curious passion for home ownership. Why can’t we produce social housing that makes homeowners a bit envious?”