Do you ever sit and wonder what your unmarked grave might look like. I hope mine is out in some woods somewhere, if there are any woods left by then. Little rickety half-graveyard, miles from the nearest town. Leaves and dappled sunlight. The birds tweet out here, but very scarcely. And then, there, me: just a small brown pile of dirt and a rusted metal fence to mark it out as sacred land:
One in three of Britain’s millennial generation will never own their own home, with many forced to live and raise families in insecure privately rented accommodation throughout their lives, according to a report by the Resolution Foundation.
— Guardian, April 17th 2018
Is this unexpected news? [Gazes out as what can roughly be described as "everything"] No, it is not. Is it depressing news? [Considers the curiously English fetishisation of homeownership, acknowledges how absurd and hard-baked the idea is, feels that we should be better than it, but also gets three emails a month from a lettings agency I just know are planning to yank the rent up on me and a savings account that can charitably be described of as "empty"; thinks about how I’d like to have a cat one day, or paint a wall eggshell blue, or how I’d like to own permanent pieces of furniture, so I can truly have something solid to call my own beyond three bin bags full of clothes and a stack of Viz comics]: Yes, in my mind, this is depressing news. Some numbers:
In a gloomy assessment of the housing outlook for approximately 14 million 20- to 35-year-olds, the think-tank’s intergenerational commission said half would be renting in their 40s and that a third could still be doing so by the time they claimed their pensions.
— Guardian, &c.
So that has about 4.6 million millennials down as never putting a nail in a wall, or owning a single key to a single front door for more than a year, or ever really being one clot of damp or a stolen deposit away from having to sadly move back in with their parents, presuming that is an option. When the youth complain about this busted housing market and the way it is affecting us – "Just work harder," we're told, "just buy a house in cash in the 1970s, like I did" – I think it is seen as some sort of whimsical affectation, that we all very truly are hand-braking ourselves from earning a million pounds and buying a flat with it to prove some sort of musty point to boomers. But as the Resolution Foundation points out, this looming housing crisis – it’s a crisis now, but it’s only going to snowball into a thermonuclear crisis if 4.6 million ageing millennials can never live anywhere – is set to cost the country billions, which if nothing else should be shaking Powers That Be into fucking doing something about it. Nothing rattles an entitled Tory-voting 55-year-old like the threat of their precious taxpayers’ money being used to buy anything other than bombs.
The Resolution Foundation also predicted an explosion in the housing benefits bill once the millennial generation reaches retirement.
“This rising share of retiree renters, coupled with an ageing population, could more than double the housing benefit bill for pensioners from £6.3bn today to £16bn by 2060 – highlighting how everyone ultimately pays for failing to tackle Britain’s housing crisis,” the report read.
— G, &c.
The think-tank suggests the much-feted European-style rent controls – you know the ones all your cool friends who moved to Berlin live under the glowing yoke of? "It’s so good, man," they say. "My rent is like €200 a month, and it’s literally illegal for them to raise it unless I die. I can almost count to ten in German now, too. EINZ ZWEI DREI! Aha no seriously you should come over" – as demonstrated in Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and the open-ended tenancies introduced in Scotland last year. But – and there's no nuanced way of saying this – fair to say we’d need a pretty fucking big shake up in government before any of that is going to happen.
Association of Residential Letting Agents David Cox told the Guardian that letting controls would be bad for landlords. Science is yet to invent tools that can detect the beyond-atomic level of noise made by the tiny violin I am playing after hearing that news. "The last time rent controls existed in this country, the private rented sector shrunk from 90 percent [of all housing] to 7 percent,” he said, presumably while emailing the tenants of a three-bedroom he operates to tell them that, sadly, he was selling the flat from underneath them and they have to move in three weeks' time, plus he’s keeping their whole deposit because he suspects someone smoked a cigarette there once. "At a time of demand for private rented homes massively outstripping supply, rent controls will cause the sector to shrink." He then shat out some nonsense about how landlords would only take "the very best tenants" and that it would in turn be even harder to find rental agreements for those on lower incomes, which is a lie.
Listen, it’s very simple: forbid anyone from owning more than one property they don’t actually reside in, introduce rent caps, and any landlord who says even anything about the new authoritarian regime is sent to a prison island out in the North Sea. But until that happens, about 33 percent of the people you know will never stop renting and, by that extension, almost likely never retire. Sorry! To! Be! The! Bearer! Of! Deeply! Bad! News!