The Covid generation: How pandemic dented dreams of buying a home

What are your experiences of moving into a new home in Norwich? Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Housing in Norwich is in demand. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

From the self-employed to furloughed workers, the financial toll of the coronavirus pandemic hit millions of people.

And young people were no exception - data released during the pandemic revealed those aged under 25 were most likely to lose their jobs and be on furlough.

Many towns and cities saw rents rise during the pandemic, with some tenants finding themselves in debt to their landlords, limiting their ability to save for a deposit and in some cases postponing plans to buy a home.

And as house prices rose, with first-time buyers also not benefitting from the cut in stamp duty, the hope of home ownership may have faded.

At Property Ladder, an independent estate agents based in Norwich, operations director Edward Brookes said there had been a "crippling lack of supply of homes for sale" since May 2020.

More landlords who own houses of multiple occupation in Norwich will have to get a licence. Photo: S

More landlords who own houses of multiple occupation in Norwich will have to get a licence. Photo: Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant © 2005

“This has altered the relationship between supply and demand which has pushed asking prices up when other market factors such as inflation, the pandemic and Brexit being finalised probably dictate prices should be settling."

Mr Brookes added: “This has been further compounded by the steady increase of buyers from out of area looking to relocate to Norfolk due to its stunning countryside and quality of life. 

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“For young people this has made getting on the housing ladder, which has been very difficult for 20 years, even trickier. Just look at Banksy’s dig at second home culture in Cromer, it’s certainly very topical right now.” 

Laura Gill, 25 and from Norwich, managed to buy her first home just as the pandemic broke out, completing the purchase on March 27, 2020.

"Any later and we would have been in limbo again as purchases couldn't go through," she said.

Laura Gill, 25  and Partner William Smith, 25 from Norwich 

Laura Gill, 25 and Partner William Smith, 25 from Norwich - Credit: Laura Gill

Miss Gill has kept a close eye on the housing market since her purchase.

She said: "The prices have definitely gone up since we purchased. We were very lucky to have bought when we did as I don't think we could have bought our house now for the same price as pre-Covid. I'm not sure we could get a house at all. 

“There is no way I'd have been able to afford this alone. Even with our incomes together, we still couldn't get much of a mortgage. The income multiples do not reflect the current house price to wage ratio. I'm not sure we'll be in a position to buy again for about five years.” 

Rebecca White, chief executive of the Norwich-based Your Own Place, which works to prevent homelessness said she was "very concerned" about the cost of housing in Norfolk.

"More concerning and present are the harms that are greater that result in housing being unaffordable," she said.

"Jobs that don’t pay, insecure work, high cost credit, lack of opportunities due to prejudice, poor social mobility, ongoing digital exclusion and the inability to save for a deposit due to high rents and costs of living."

Rebecca White, who runs Your Own Place. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Rebecca White, who runs Your Own Place. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Demand has not just been limited to sales - those looking to rent in Norwich have had to compete for a property.

Lesley Levy, residential lettings manager for Brown & Co, said: “We are finding a very strong demand for rental properties in Norwich – in fact, for all over Norfolk, and the shortage of stock has caused rents to increase quite considerably. We are getting more enquiries than we have ever had and it is taking only a day or so to agree a let.  

For Sale sign displayed on a British street

One area of Norfolk has seen a 107% increase in house sale enquiries in the past year - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“However, the shortage of properties is compounded by the fact that the sales market is so strong as well, and several landlords have sold or are selling rather than re-letting.” 

In August last year, The Resolution Foundation found that just 13pc of private renters aged between 24 and 35 had savings of £10,000 going into lockdown.

Bury Street Golden Triangle, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams

Bury Street Golden Triangle, Norwich. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Emma Corlett, Labour county councillor for Town Close ward in Norwich, said more social housing needed to be built and steps taken to bring the private rental market in line with local wages to prevent people from spending vast amounts of their salary on rent, leaving them unable to save for deposits.

She said: "Private rents have come completely out of kilter with local wages, there's a huge disparity and rents need to reflect that, it's outrageous the percentage of people's income they're spending on private housing. 

"The other main impact is all the people that are staying in shared housing because they cannot afford to move out on their own. It becomes a chicken and egg situation."

County councillor Emma Corlett outside Vauxhall Centre, Johnson Place Norwich

Cllr Emma Corlett, member champion for mental health - Credit: Brittany Woodman