Party conferences are memorable for all sorts of reasons.
I’ll always associate the Harrogate conference of September 1992 with ‘black Wednesday’. The day interest rates went through the roof, I was worried about losing mine. I’d moved to Islington earlier that year and we had a big mortgage to support. A group of us abandoned plans for a restaurant meal and contemplated life in negative equity over jacket potatoes instead. There was a chill in the air that was nothing to do with the north Yorkshire weather.
Now with falling house prices, but rising housing costs, it’s happening again. Last year there were more repossessions than for 15 years. So more families are facing the horror of losing their homes – and joining the long queue for affordable rented housing.
Islington’s housing market is relatively buoyant – in fact I think a modest fall in prices here relative to other areas would be a good thing. House prices are over-inflated and too many people are priced out of ever having a home. But there’s a big difference between a soft landing and a crash.
So while estate agents and developers try to talk up the market, it’s good to see that at this year’s Lib Dem conference, Vince Cable will be setting out plans for people who are getting left behind.
It’s not about subsidising mortgages, but practical measures to help people stay in their homes with help from housing associations; and help councils get more social housing too.