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Opinion

My futile nest egg…

27 Jun 2024 6 minute read
House for Sale

June Slater*

I’m heartbroken over the loss of the home I’ve never had…

Despair at the eye-watering price of houses is compounded by the fact that I am now being forced to live off my savings, spending the money I had carefully accumulated over a 28-year career in the hope of one day being able to buy my own modest home outright, avoiding the peril of rising mortgage interest rates that have affected so many people recently.

Now, however, the existence of my hard-won nest egg means I am not eligible for Universal Credit or other benefits despite the fact that I had to stop working in 2022 because of a deterioration in my disability.

Financially independent since the age of 21 when I first graduated, I have never had a credit card, taken out a loan or been in arrears.

I have always lived within my rather limited means—in my whole career I have never earned more than £26,000 annually—while renting in the private sector. I bought my first ever car—second-hand—at the age of 38, when I had to move to a rural area for the sake of my health.

While teaching at university level since the age of 22, I funded my own way through three postgraduate degrees followed by a PhD.

Disability

Diagnosed with a disability in 2009, I struggled on in work for a number of years but had to switch to part-time in 2016 and finally had to stop working altogether in 2022 at the age of 50.

By this time, despite paying rent and having to working part-time for seven years, I had managed to save over £100,000 and had been searching for and viewing houses for a little while, though finding one compatible with my disability (which necessitates that I live in a detached, rural property, never mind how small) had already proven rather challenging. (Before its onset I had been perfectly happy living in a series of town-centre flats close to my places of work.)

Then Covid hit and prices in rural West Wales, where I live, went through the roof as people from affluent urban areas snapped up countryside properties at break-neck speed, sometimes, apparently, without even having viewed them.

There was no way I could compete in that ‘house-rush’ market—and although it’s less frenzied than it was during peak Covid, house prices in the area haven’t exactly tumbled. The smallest cottage now costs about twice my lifetime savings (or almost ten times the median local salary); in other words, the goalposts have been moved so far—a 26% increase since 2020 in Ceredigion, for example—that ever owning a home in my homeland now seems totally out of the question for me—and I’m far from the only one affected, of course.

Second homes

The problem is exacerbated by the considerable number of second homes and holiday cottages in West Wales—695 in Ceredigion alone (a thirty percent rise in a decade) according to the 2021 census, though the ONS states that this figure is likely to be an underestimate.

Indeed, in reality the situation seems to be a lot worse: a recent search on Airbnb for an ‘entire place’ to rent in Ceredigion brought up ‘over 1,000’ results. These places include fashionable shepherd’s huts, yurts and other quirky types of accommodation, but also an awful lot of cottages and houses that could and should provide permanent homes rather than temporary holiday accommodation.

A search on a popular property website the same day brought up just four places for long-term rent in the whole of Ceredigion, all of them either terraced houses or flats, so totally unsuitable for me.

As a result of all this, I have been without a home for a couple of years now. Considered by my local authority to be ‘sofa-surfing’, I actually spend most of my time living out of a small van parked up at various friends’ places—as well as on the road.

I am on my local authority waiting list for housing but have been told that there is no housing stock suitable for people with my disability.

Working from home

Lacking a home makes working from home (the only type of work I would now be able to undertake) a bit tricky: I’m not able to guarantee when and for how long I will have internet access, and I am wary of squatting my friends’ kitchen tables for too long. In such unstable circumstances, in addition to my health challenges, it’s unlikely that I would be able to obtain, let alone hold down, a job.

So I’ve had no income since 2022 and am watching the precious contents of my bank account—namely my life’s savings—dwindle every month, my dream of having a home of my own slipping away. Needless to say, recent massive inflation hasn’t helped on that score either.

Of course, I’m aware that I’m fortunate in that I’ve at least built up a financial buffer that many others don’t have—even though my hard-earned savings weren’t meant for this—and I’m not (yet) living on the streets.

Obscene price of property

Nevertheless, it rankles that, despite always having been the opposite of a spendthrift, having lived frugally, saved money and never been in debt, I still haven’t been able to buy a house—thanks to the obscene price of property in this country—and am now expected to spend all the money I had saved for that purpose until I have just £16,000 left, a sum which won’t even get you a decent camper van these days.

On the other hand, people who have been fortunate enough to be able to buy a home and who fall on hard times aren’t expected to sell their home before they are eligible for support (unless they need to go into long-term care late in life).

Those who have had less good fortune, who are unable to work because of long-term health conditions or disabilities and who have not been in a position to save much money and/or buy a home receive help with living and housing costs.

I fall into neither of these categories. As a result of this state of affairs, it seems that I’ll never be able to have a home of my own and the stable base I need in order to be able to earn a modest living.

Therefore, once my savings have shrunk to the maximum permitted amount, I will in all likelihood be made dependent on the state for the rest of my life. Even then I risk remaining homeless because of a lack of suitable social housing. I’m trapped because there is absolutely nothing in place to accommodate people in my situation.

*The name of the writer has been changed to protect her identity.


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Ap Kenneth
17 days ago

I can only hope that this lady finds a permanent home asap, it must be an incredibly difficult situation to find yourself in.

Crwtyn Cemais
Crwtyn Cemais
17 days ago

[please scroll down for English] Mae sefyllfa’r ddynes hon yn un torcalonus; mae argaeledd tai fforddadwy yn rhannau helaeth o Gymru yn argyfyngus, ac yn ei hachos hi, mae anhyblygrwydd biwrocrataidd yn gwaethygu’r sefyllfa iddi. Dw i mewn sefyllfa ffodus gan fod fy mod i’n unig blentyn ac mae fy nhad yn dal i fyw yn y cartref teuluol yma yng ngorllewin Cymru. Onibai am hynny, byddai ddim gobaith caneri gyda fi i fyw yn fy mro enedigol. Gobeithiaf yn arw y bydd y ddynes hon yn cael cartref addas cyn gynted a phosib a bod y biwrocratiaid lleol yn… Read more »

John Lightfoot
John Lightfoot
16 days ago

If the lady has a good amount in the bank she will not get much interest. You could invest in Whisky, value goes up and it is tax free.

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