Housing costs in the United Kingdom have reached an all-time high, causing significant concerns among mortgage holders and renters alike. This alarming trend coincides with mounting pressure from Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, who is urging the UK Government to address what he calls “excruciating” housing expenses.
Record High in Cost-of-Living Concern:
A recent study conducted by Which? reveals that cost-of-living concerns have surged to unprecedented levels, primarily driven by the looming specter of rising interest rates anticipated later this month. The study indicates that 79% of mortgage holders and 81% of renters are now deeply worried about their housing costs. This marks the highest level of concern recorded since the survey’s inception in 2013. Notably, there has been a steady increase in anxiety among renters over the past two years, with only 62% expressing concerns in August 2021.
The study further highlights the grim reality that 2.2 million households have either missed or defaulted on essential payments, such as housing bills, loans, or credit card payments, within the past month. Of those who missed a household bill payment, a staggering 61% reported multiple instances of defaults.
Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which?, commented on the situation: “Although UK inflation is gradually receding, the pervasive worries about housing costs and the impending threat of higher interest rates later this month underscore that, for many, the cost-of-living crisis persists. We strongly encourage those facing financial hardships to seek free debt advice and reach out to their mortgage providers or landlords for assistance. In light of the extensive financial difficulties faced by the public, we call on businesses in essential sectors, such as food, energy, and telecoms, to do more to help customers secure fair deals and avoid unnecessary or unjust costs during this crisis.”
Humza Yousaf’s Call to Action:
Scotland’s First Minister, Humza Yousaf, has taken a proactive stance in addressing this issue. During a campaign visit to support SNP’s candidate Katy Loudon, Yousaf criticized UK ministers, stating that they are “not doing enough for homeowners who are struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis created by Westminster.” Katy Loudon, a candidate for the upcoming Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, has already written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, advocating for the introduction of a mortgage tax relief scheme.
Yousaf has additionally urged the Chancellor to heed Ms. Loudon’s call for a tax relief scheme, which would enable individuals to make mortgage repayments from their salary prior to tax and national insurance deductions.
In response to these concerns, an HM Treasury spokesperson stated, “The best thing we can do for homeowners with mortgages of any term is to keep an eye on inflation. We have a strategy to half it this year, and most outside forecasts believe we will succeed in our goal. By providing additional protections against repossessions and making it simpler to manage monthly repayments, our Mortgage Charter, which covers 90% of the mortgage market, is already assisting individuals in getting through this trying period.”
The situation regarding housing costs in the UK remains a pressing issue, and the public and policymakers alike will be closely watching for any further developments on this front.