My husband and I are in the middle of a house move. At the end of the month, we’re leaving our beloved zone-2 shoebox to live on the Kent coast. Everyone we know is very excited for us and at least half of them have congratulated us on getting on the property ladder at long last. We’re not. We are still renting. It will cost just over half of what we pay at the moment yet, personally, I feel obliged to offer a mumbling, shamed apology to everyone who thinks we’re buying a place: “Ha ha, no, we’re not there yet – you know, freelancing, it’s hard. We’re a bit… rubbish. Sorry.” I don’t say: “I have paid my own rent for a decade and I have never been a day late with it.” Or: “I have savings for the very first time in my life and I don’t have anywhere near enough for a house deposit. Do you know how depressing and demoralising that is?” Or, the most painful home truth of all: “Show me someone who is my age who has bought a house without any parental help. Because I don’t know anyone who can.”
In the UK, parents are predicted to lend their adult children more than £6.5bn this year to help with home buying. That figure has gone up 30 per cent since last year. I don’t begrudge anyone a bit of help – OK, I might feel slightly grudging for five minutes and then I take a deep breath and get over myself. However, I’m furious that we’re all in this situation. How has our economy reached a point where millions of working adults can’t even dream of owning a place to live?
We have a growing ‘sex for rent’ crisis, where landlords prey on desperate young women who can’t afford housing
It wouldn’t be quite so bad if home ownership had not been fetishised, celebrated and presented as the ultimate goal of adulthood. If the rental market was fair for tenants, and we didn’t have to worry about bad landlords, lost deposits and basic safety standards, then we might be less obsessed with trying to get a mortgage. Labour recently said that you have more rights when you buy a fridge freezer than you do when you rent a flat. If you’re getting some help from your parents, you have an escape route. If you’re not getting a leg-up, you end up giving most of your money to someone else, so that they can build their property empire. As a renter, I’ve been incredibly lucky, as most of my landlords have been reasonable and responsible, but I know my experience has been unusual.
Many people in their twenties and thirties have been the first to experience the cult of parenthood as children. Our generation were driven to endless clubs and activities, instead of playing on the street. Our parents hired tutors, pushed us to get As and A*s, and did everything they could to help us to get into university in order for us to find a rewarding, secure job that would allow us to give our children everything that they had given us. I know that I’m hugely privileged to have parents who cared about me and did everything they could to help me into adulthood. I never expected them to give me thousands of pounds towards buying a house – and they thought they were giving me the tools that would allow me to do that by myself, if I wanted to.
Instead, we have a generation that starts their working life with student-loan debt, often in a job that pays in “experience”, not salary. We have a growing “sex for rent” crisis, where landlords prey on desperate young women who can’t afford housing. We have a capital city where the average rent is over £1,200 – almost as much as you’d earn full-time on the London Living Wage. If you’re a parent who can help your child negotiate their way through this mess, you’re going to do everything you can to help them. I don’t blame the parents at all. I blame the greed of governments and the people who have gambled away the safety and happiness of an entire generation because they see houses as profitable piggy banks, instead of places for people to live in.