In the 60’s and 70’s, renting was a dirty word. You either lived in a damp bedsit with wood chip on the wall and a coin-operated electricity meter, or you lived in a council house.  As a nation we were persuaded that rent payments were ‘wasted money’, however, as the rate of homeownership is starting to drop substantially, there is no longer the same stigma attached to renting. In Southwark, of 282,560 residents, 194,324 rent their home from either the local authority, a social housing provider or a private landlord, meaning that 68.77% of people living in Southwark are tenants.

Although the number of owner-occupiers in Southwark is relatively low, with 79,928 or 28.28% of all Southwark residents living in an owner-occupied property, there can be no doubt that the idea of homeownership is deeply embedded in British culture.  Housing is at the heart of government policy; George Osborne has promised 200,000 new properties a year to allow first time buyers to get onto the property ladder.  The Thatcher government, along with successive prime ministers since, have run election campaigns promising everybody their own home.

As more people across the UK rent, is it possible that there is a link between home ownership and good health?  The UK, according to Bloomberg, is 21ston the list of the healthiest countries in the world.  Germany is at No.10 and Switzerland is No.4; it is interesting to note that home ownership is at 52.5% and 44% respectively in those countries, while in the UK it is 64.8%.

In the Southwark area, 79.83% of home owners who own their house outright said they were in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ health, whilst at the other end of the scale, 5.5% said their health was ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’.  Looking at renting, 76.8% of Southwark local authority or social tenants said they were in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ health and 8.32% were in ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ health.  Interestingly, ‘private rented tenants’ in Southwark were the healthiest, as 93.27% described themselves as in ‘very good’ or ‘good’ health and only 1.66% were in ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ health.

I am not suggesting that low home ownership rates in Switzerland and Germany are directly linked to health, nor do I expect Brits to flock to Berlin, Interlaken or Düsseldorf and discover how happy people are when they don’t need to worry about all the stresses which accompany home ownership.  However, the numbers for Southwark and the UK as whole do go some way to supporting this argument. I do think that the perceived benefits of home ownership in recent years have been emphasisied by rising house prices. Owning a home has been a good way of getting a decent return on your investment, a much better return than UK banks have been able to offer since 2009. Now the rise in house prices is coming to an end, it’s hard to see why anybody would want to buy?

One thing’s for sure, renting is here to stay in East Dulwich and it will continue to grow incrementally each year,  even with the new tax rules for landlords.   Buy-to-let still remains a viable investment option for most people in the borough.  Now is a good time to purchase a buy-to-let property in East Dulwich, but buy wisely.  Gone are the days when you could make profit on anything with four walls and a roof.  Take advice from experts and do your homework.  You can find out more about the East Dulwich Property market by  subscribing to this blog or by just picking up the phone and giving me a call.