Opinion

“Why I’ll probably never own a home, or even be able to afford rent when I’m older”

Posted by
Hollie Richardson
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Millennial renting report

First, we were asked to accept the fact that only a lucky few millennials will become homeowners. Now, we’ve been told that we may not even be able to afford to privately rent after retirement. Stylist’s Hollie Richardson takes a look at the government’s new depressing report on our housing futures.

Nobody in my immediate family owns a home; we all privately rent. This includes my mum, who is nearing retirement age. We once lived in a picture-perfect house that my parents built together, but we soon lost that after they separated. Life has been a cycle of private rentals and social housing for us ever since. It’s likely that my mum will never own a property again, and her life after retirement will be in the hands of landlords who she has no option but to pay and trust.

This saddens and sickens me. How has the housing crisis become so bad that women on a decent wage, who have worked right up to their retirement while single-handedly raising four children, unable to own a place they can call home? And if this is the reality for people in retirement today, how bad are things about to get for millennials? What does this mean for my own housing future?

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A BBC analysis found that death, debt and divorce are common reasons for the rise in renters over 45, which definitely helps to make some sense of this. But, with the average house price in the UK being £229,431 and the average deposit being close to £20,000, house prices are constantly rising. I’m no economist, but with the average household income being £28,400 in 2018, even I can work out that saving up over two-thirds of your salary to secure a home is absurd.

In London, where the average house price is an eye-watering £478,853, would-be homeowners need to raise an £80,000 deposit. Without a much higher-than-average salary (often achieved thanks to a background of private education), parental assistance is needed to buy a house. In fact, research found that the Banks of Mum of Dad helped by giving their kids an average of £21,600 each in 2017.

But the Bank of Mum and Dad isn’t open to everybody, including me. I did everything right: I went to uni, got a degree, moved cities to start a career and continue to work hard. Sure, I’ve probably gone a bit overboard on boozy brunches and in the ASOS sale on occasion, but I’ve learned to top up a pot of money in my account as a security blanket. I’m not “extra” but I don’t deny myself small treats to try and stay sane in a world gone mad (as proven by the fact that Boris Johnson is very likely set to be our new prime minister).

The reality is: if my parent doesn’t own her own home, how on earth will I?

Woman moving house
Millennial rents rising means a lot of moving around and headaches.

Even if I managed to save for a deposit, I’d have to move well away from London, which would mean quitting my job and friends. I’d also have to deal with the guilt of being a homeowner, knowing that my mum is stuck renting in another part of the country. And, I wouldn’t have the peace of mind that comes with having a family member who can offer financial help for those “just in case” moments. It’s also worth mentioning that I don’t have “couple privilege” to help split costs right now.

I am definitely not the only one experiencing this.

Last year, independent think tank the Resolution Foundation reported that one in three of 20-35 year olds will never own their own home. It said that many millennials will be forced to live and raise families in insecure privately rented accommodation for their entire lives, with around half of that generation predicted to still be renting well into their 40s. A third of millennials may still be in rented accommodation by the time they reach retirement.

So, after living in 13 family homes (not including my various student digs) at the last count, I’m actually quite accepting of the fact that I’ll be joining these future statistics. Renting is precarious - rates in London alone rose by 38% between 2005 and 2016 – but I guess I’m just used to the anxiety and uncertainty that comes with that by now.

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However, a new government report on renting released today (17 July) has left me terrified.

The parliamentary all-party group report on housing and care for older people predicts that more than 600,000 millennials will face the “inevitable catastrophe” of homelessness when they retire because private rental rates will quite literally become unaffordable.

If rents rise at the same rate as earnings, the inquiry found that 52% of pensioners in the private rental sector will be paying more than 40% of their income on rent by 2038. People’s incomes typically halve after retirement. Those in the private rented sector who pay 40% of their earnings in rent could be forced to spend up to 80% of their income on rent in retirement.

This would result in people being homeless and seeking temporary accommodation. Richard Best, the chair of the group, said that without at least 21,000 suitable homes being built a year until then, there will literally be nowhere for this group of people to live.

Again, this statistic could very well include me. And it has reawakened my anger. 

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Firstly, we need to continue standing up for the rights of renters. Most recently, we’ve seen the Tenant’s Fee Act which bans letting fees and caps tenancy deposits. And, the section 21 act which currently allows landlords to unfairly evict tenants without good reason will soon be abolished. Continuing to ensure renters are supported by policies means that, even if we don’t own a home, the world of renting is the fairest it can possibly be.

We also must push for more affordable housing by contacting and pressuring our local MPs. As Dr Rachael Docking, senior programme manager for homes at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “We have an urgent challenge on our hands to prevent people in later life being pushed into poverty or trapped in unsuitable housing in the years to come.”

I might be used to a life of renting right now, but I refuse to let my own daughter worry about my housing situation in retirement as much as I do about my own mum. 

Images: Getty

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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