Saturday, December 09, 2006

C21st and Family Life in London

My quip at last week's Jesuit Directors' of Works conference on the quoted;
"the family that prays together stays together", adage, was that our
family clearly needs to stop praying. There are 3 adult children and one
seventeen year old still living at home with us parents as a family, in a
house which is getting no larger. Surely the oldest would want out by now?

Mrs maytrees and I were married living in our own home and with children when we were the same ages our oldest two.
The are great advantages of course in having one's own community life
at home and mealtimes especially, are never quiet - two of the grown up children
have Masters degrees in psychology. Nonetheless most young adults in their
mid twenties seek independence so why so many maytrees' stay-at-homes?

A major problem is the cost of housing. Our first house in London cost
£8,500 at a time when our joint salaries were under £3,000, so the home cost
then 1971, about 3 times our joint salary.

Back of an envelope figures for today are:
Young graduates can expect to earn say £20,000 as a start. 2X£20,000=£40,000
3X£40,000=£120,000, whereas even the most modest London house price
is about double that ie £240,000.
More to the point, the previous 3 times joint salary house price, did enable
the housing costs to be met, by one salary earner when family life with children began. One salary then, had to cover housing costs based on 6 times that annual
At the same stage today in 21st century London, one salary earner of a
recently married
couple whose family life begins to embrace children, would need to
meet housing costs based on 12 times the family's income if the other
erswhile salary earner stays at home to become a full time mother.
Virtually impossible and renting rather than buying, a home is hardly
less expensive at present.

The consequences then are
either like the maytrees' household, more adult children stay longer
in their parental homes; or young husband and wife
both remain full time workers even
after their own family life begins to embrace children;
or more live single lives in smallish flats.
For those whose family life is virtually non existent
or unbearable, sleeping rough may beckon or endeavours to
evade the huge responsibilities by escapism through eg drugs or crime.

Other more intriguing outcomes could be that smallish communities Israeli Kibbutz-style could develop
but there is little sign of this so far or more
could travel and/or work with the relief of poverty in the third world.

The huge cost of housing then impacts on family life and the social structures
of Society yet government initiatives, such as abolishing tax relief on
home purchase loans , increasing Council taxes, letting married
couples taxation assistance wither on the vine and providing no
incentives for full time parenthood, all serve to make the impact
far worse.

The Churches do wring their hands about all this but seem to do little
to initiate or catalyse change.

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