Merryn's Blog

How houses kill happiness: an example

The British public's obsession with owning houses can make for a life of utter misery, says Merryn Somerset Webb.

Someone called from Newsnight yesterday. They wanted to ask about housing. Does the obsession with owning houses in the UK damage lives? Does it mean we don't diversify our investments enough or save enough into our pensions? Does it hurt the economy by damaging labour mobility? Damage entrepreneurship by putting people off risk?

I think we all know the answers to these questions (yes, yes, yes, yes) but for those in any doubt here is an article from the Daily Mail about a woman who lives in a £1m house but finds herself also "on the breadline".

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She worries about money all the time and appears to be utterly miserable. But while renovating the house has "drained" her family's savings, her mortgage is only £500,000. She could sell up today, move 20 miles further out of London, buy a similar sized house and be mortgage and worry free. Hooray! Why doesn't she?

"I love my house", she says. Case closed.

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