BBC One’s long running property show Escape to the Country used to be about retirees, new families, and aspiring farmers relocating from the hustle and bustle of the city to the peaceful countryside. It was all about leaving the city by choice, in order to seek a better, calmer life in rural Britain.
However, as the housing market in our major cities continues to spiral out of control, more and more people are escaping to the country not by choice, but because they can no longer afford to buy or even rent properties in urban areas. So what are the facts about British people leaving urban areas, and what effect will it have on the property market in both the city and the countryside?
In recent months, the news has been full of stories about the swathes of people leaving the cities and moving to the countryside. An article published by The Guardian in April of this year entitled ‘Goodbye London: why people are leaving the capital’ [http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/29/goodbye-london-moving-to-brighton-house-prices] looked at both the personal story of one Londoner making the escape to the country, and the wider social and economic reasons behind this shift in our thinking.
The underlying issue with London’s housing market, it states, is that there is a major shortage of housing in many areas, including affordable homes for rent and purchase. A recent study by housing charity Shelter [http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ffb7a378-4bf9-11e5-9b5d-89a026fda5c9.html] confirmed this, as it showed that a person living in London would need to earn at least £76,957 a year in order to be able to afford one of the newly built ‘starter homes’ that are popping up around the city. This is in contrast to the £50,266 needed to buy one in rural areas. In addition, the average amount required for a deposit on a property in London is around £70,000, much higher than the rest of the United Kingdom.
So who is it leaving the cities to buy cheaper property in the countryside? The answer is that it’s a whole mix of different people, from retirees and young families, to young professionals, small business owners, and middle-aged couples. Additionally, as youth media magazine Vice reported last year, increasing numbers of young people, particularly artists and creative types, are escaping to the countryside to buy property and settle down [link: https://i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/london-its-over-and-its-not-me-its-you].
Those are the facts, but what does this mass escape to the country mean for the housing market in the United Kingdom? House prices in the United Kingdom, especially in cities, are among the highest they’ve ever been, and clearly it will take major changes in the market for this to change any time soon. However, with more and more people escaping to the country to buy property, we can expect to see house prices rise in some rural areas, especially those in which there is a large concentration of recent arrivals.
You can watch Escape to the Country on BBC One and BBC Two, or catch up with it on BBC iPlayer [http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006vb2f]
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