The headline in the Big Issue (issue #1362) said that spiraling rents are forcing young people to stay in small towns instead of moving to cities with better jobs. This follows some research by the Resolution Foundation.
The implication is clear, small towns are bad for young people. They do not offer them the range of employment chances that big cities do. Surely not!
What a one sided view. No problem involving people is ever that binary and I am confident that lowering rents, or purchase prices, in cities will do anything to improve the life chances or career opportunities of young people. Indeed, any rent or price control could be detrimental. Restricting yields on property will reduce investment, leading to even more shortages in accommodation, reducing its quality and putting greater pressure to put rental and purchase prices up.
This is the myth about affordable housing. All housing is affordable otherwise it would not be built. Forcing the market to produce lower cost housing is a simplistic answer to a much more complex problem.
My issues with the article however is that it has only considered one side of the argument. Why must young people, or indeed anyone, move away from the small town in which they live, to get a good job? With modern technology and better transport investment there is no reason that people cannot have good jobs and live in smaller, more intimate places.
I know, because I do. I work across the North East yet have lived in a small market town for thirty years. For me, I have a good life balance and have no desire to move to the city to improve my lot. I would see this as a detrimental move.
More focus needs to be given to the factors that influence the housing market. The government needs to do more to balance the distribution of businesses, across the regions, especially head offices of corporations and to curb the overheating of the South East of the country.
We shouldn’t be forcing anyone to stay or go anywhere but we should be using policy to make different places to be more attractive to live in.
We talk a lot about diversity. Perhaps we need to encourage diversity of living styles. We need to be careful when stating one option as the only solution to a problem.