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Monday, July 15, 2024
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HomeLaura PerrinsStarmer's family home would today be out of reach

Starmer’s family home would today be out of reach

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SIR Keir Starmer was born in 1962 and grew up in a small pebbledashed house in Hurst Green near Oxted in Surrey. ‘Money was tight.’ The story of Hurst Green and Oxted is the story of the biggest structural problem in England, namely out-of-control house prices.

I lived in Hayes near Bromley, which is not that far from Oxted, and I remember taking my elder daughter to a tennis tournament there. There are quite a few private schools as well as grammar schools, a big attraction no doubt to the moneyed middle class who live there now.

When I arrived on Oxted high street, I thought, Crikey, I really am in England. It has several Tudor or perhaps mock-Tudor buildings which are beautiful. It is very green and surrounded by National Trust properties including Chartwell, the former country home of Churchill, where I also spent much of my time.

Unless you live in a cave, you know that Sir Keir’s father Rodney Starmer was a toolmaker and his mother, Josephine, was a nurse. Little Keir was the second of four children: he has an older sister and younger twin siblings. We can argue over whether having a father who was a toolmaker and a mother a nurse makes the family working class or lower middle class. I would go with lower middle class but it’s not that important.

What is important is that this family of six, with a toolmaker father and a nurse mother, could live near Oxted. This meant that the super-bright second child, who always seemed to have his head in a book, went to the local grammar school. From there he went to study law at the University of Leeds until finally he went all the way to the dreaming spires of Oxford. Our boy at Oxford.

Let’s say the Starmer family home had three bedrooms: it is very unlikely that each of the children had their own room. The boys probably shared and the sister had her own room. So we are talking about a modest three-bedroom home near Oxted, where every penny is watched by the prudent, hardworking and dignified mother and father.

Do you know how much a three-bedroom home in Oxted costs now? I went on the estate agents to have a look. Here is a three-bedroom end of terrace house for sale for over half a million pounds sterling. That’s proper money as we say in our Anglo-Irish house, not funny money, euros.

Say the parents are solidly middle-class, perhaps the wife is a nurse and the father works in IT. This house is also a three-bed but detached and in Hurst Green. It will cost you a whopping £800,000. Without the bank of mum and dad, that house is well out of reach of your nurse/IT couple.

Perhaps you want to live on the High Street in Oxted. This picturesque end of terrace house could be yours if you have £575,000. But it is only a two-bed, so good luck getting your four children into that.

There are plenty of homes for the bankers though, those who escape to the commuter belt and live in beautiful Oxted. Personally, I like this five-bed detached on Westerham Road. That will cost you ‘offers over’ £2,250,000. That’s quite a few zeros. 

At the other end of the market, this starter one-bedroom apartment is coming in at £335,000. 

In truth, what chance would the working-class family of six have of living in Oxted today, 2024? Pretty low, I’d say. And this is the problem for Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour government. The ridiculous out-of-control house prices in Britain these days mean that a working-class family like his own would have absolutely zero chance of living in Oxted or indeed anywhere in the South East.

The new Labour government has come out fighting though: ‘Starmer and Reeves have pledged to have 1.5 million homes built over the course of this parliament.

You can loosen the planning regulations of course, which is exactly what Labour will announce. The Times is reporting that there will be a ‘restoration of mandatory local housebuilding targets while relaxing planning restrictions on building on “ugly” parts of the green belt, which Starmer has branded the “grey belt”. There will be an enhanced presumption in favour of development.’

How much impact this will have on the green and pleasant land that surrounds places such as Oxted will be hotly debated.

The other problem with house prices is immigration. Prices are governed by supply and demand. Boosting supply is a start but with net immigration running at 600,000 a year, even with 1.5million new houses over five years (300,000 houses a year) this means you are short every year and that’s not including all the catch-up you must do. It doesn’t help to bring down your immigration numbers if you scrap the one scheme that seemed to act as a deterrent – namely Rwanda. Why are Labour scrapping that? Doesn’t make sense to me. But as usual scrapping things is always easier than building things, especially when it comes to housing.

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