THERE are winners and losers in the property market and we all know who the winners appear to be. New figures published this week suggest that retired homeowners are now sitting on a total nest egg of £412billion. The soaring housing market also means the nest egg has grown by £842million in the last year or by an average of almost £3,000 a year for each property. Based on these figures, it would seem that life is still booming for the baby boomers.

Of course, it is not quite as simple as that. For a start, there is a tendency to think that all pensioners fall into the same category and are sitting on a decent pension and living in a house that is mortgage-free, but that is not the case. Pensioner poverty is a real problem in Scotland – in fact, Age Scotland estimates one in five of those over 65 years of age are living in poverty. These aren’t pensioners who are spending their children’s inheritance; they are struggling financially every single day.

It is also vital to remember that living in a house that is mortgage-free does not necessarily make you rich. Some pensioners are choosing to raise money through equity release schemes, which effectively means signing your house over to the lender after your death, but otherwise it may be hard for a retired person to raise income from their house. A lack of smaller properties also means that raising money by downsizing is also not quite as easy as it sounds. And it may be that older people feel they need to hold on their property should they need to pay for their social care later in life. Living in a valuable property is not the same as having access to lots of money.

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However, the new figures do point to a real imbalance in the housing market that needs to be addressed. While many older people are living in properties that are rising in value, many young people are struggling to find a home because the financial figures are stacked against them. The average deposit that a first-time buyers now needs in Glasgow is £21,876; in Edinburgh it is £37,661; and in London it is an astonishing £139,987. Within ten years, a first-time buyer in London may need to raise quarter of a million pounds for a deposit. Those are staggering figures and mean hundreds of thousands of young people are excluded from the property market.

Fixing this imbalance of wealth between the young and old should not mean punishing the old however. There are questions to be asked about many of the universal benefits that pensioners enjoy, such as the winter fuel allowance, which are unsustainable in the longer term. There may also come a time when politicians finally want to tackle the subject of inheritance tax and whether it can be made much more progressive by introducing bands, for example, and taxing the richest more.

But the real problem in the housing market is not the relative wealth of the over-65s, it is the lack of housing, which is driving up the cost across all sectors, although it is particularly hard for those who rent. The rising costs mean renters in Scotland are now spending almost a quarter of their income on housing costs – a problem that will not be solved until there are many more new properties of all kinds to reduce the inflationary pressures.

The problem is particularly acute with social and affordable housing and here the Scottish Government says it will deliver at least 50,000 new homes by 2021. That is good news as far as it goes, but where will the land come from? And is the Government prepared to pay for the long-term, sustained growth that is needed in social housing? Governments are traditionally reluctant to do anything that will damage pensioners, who are always sure to vote, but governments also have a responsibility to the young and we know the one thing that would make their lives easier: more homes.