Our homes are our castles (to paraphrase a saying that some may unnecessarily deem as politically incorrect these days, if using the ‘full English’ version).
Nonetheless, there is no place more defining of this than Essex. My home county.
Arguably, Essex was the most enthusuastic recipient of Thatcherism in the 1980’s and embraced the encouragement of self employment, entrepreneurialism and consumer spending in a big way. I guess I am ‘a Thatcher’s child myself as I am happy to boast of a family of four generations of Essex dwellers that have epitomised the Essex way. Work hard then spend hard.
No truer is this than in relation to housing. We love that we can own our own piece of the world and when the ‘right to buy’ was launched nearly three decades ago, those in Basildon, Romford, Westcliff, Chelmsford, Colchester etc jumped in with both feet to buy their homes at huge discount from their respective local authorities.
The canny home owner then saw their investment rocket in value in the 80’s; devalue over the 90’s and then go through the roof thereafter until 2008 when it started to go awry again, albeit that it seems that the rollercoaster has levelled out a bit for now.
The fact remains that the average house value has risen FIVE fold between 1983 and 2009. Essex has remained undeterred by the ups and downs of the housing market, with Castle Point (Canvey Island, Hadleigh and Benfleet) having the highest owner occupation rate of anywhere in the UK at 88.5% against a national average of 70% (Source: Halifax House Price Index).
Such a wise investment has funded a spending boom of home improvements, consumer goods and an injection of money into owner managed businesses that leads the way in the UK.
We are far better off for it albeit that, on the downside, such a boost to the local economy has also spawned a plague of estate agency offices along each and every High Street that house a proliferation of shiny suits, hair gel and Smart Cars ;-(
But the online revolution may soon take care of all that 😉