The property ladder. It’s something that we’re all supposed to race to get a foothold on, work to climb and aspire to get to the top of. It’s a series of stages in owning a house, in which you buy a small house or apartment and gradually trade up as the value of your first property increases in line with you earnings.
Sounds easy, sounds logical. These days, however, thanks to the UK’s housing crisis the reality is very far from easy and getting to the top of this ladder seems about as likely as being offered ‘magic beans’ Jack and the Beanstalk style which grow, overnight, and take us to a giant magical castle in the sky.
The UK’s housing market has changed. More people than ever before are renting and fewer of today’s youth will ever own their own homes than did in our parent's and grandparent's generation. Housing can be characterized less by a ladder and more like a hamster wheel, on which you go round and round every month, working to afford your rent.
Reporting on and reading about housing can get a bit depressing. It’s an avalanche of graphs, stats and stories of misery in which the main characters are London, extortionate house prices, a lack of suitable homes, Generation Rent, buy to let landlords and politicians who have their heads buried in the sand.
According to the Office for National Statistics fewer people own their own homes than ever before and it’s not just single young people who are affected, for the first time in our country’s history there are more people (including families) renting privately than there are in social housing.
So, in light of the fact that many of us aren’t going to own a house for quite a while, that society feels like it’s becoming increasingly divided into those who rent rooms and those who rent out rooms, that recent economic, social and political change has resulted in greater uncertainty and ruled out more conventional housing options for Generation Rent, here are our predictions for what housing is going to look like for us in 2016 and beyond:
Living Rooms Will Become Extinct in London
Do you have a living room in your rented property? You lucky thing. They’re already a rare breed but we predict that soon rented flats or houses with living rooms will become extinct, a thing of the past, a distant memory.
A quick search of SpareRoom or a trip to your estate agents will confirm this. How many ads out there say things like ‘three bedrooms and a spacious living room which can also be converted into another bedroom’? How many hours have you wasted on RightMove sifting through three bed properties, which, on closer inspection, are actually for two? How many times have you asked to be shown around three beds and been taken to properties and asked ‘err so where’s the third room’ only to be told ‘oh we just assumed you’d use the living room’.
It’s a sign of the times that living rooms are seen as a luxury but is it any wonder? According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation housing is deemed to be unaffordable if it costs somebody more than a third of what they take home in wages. With so many properties, especially in London, costing more than this is it any wonder that we’re trying to get three people into two beds, four into three and five into four?
Save the living room!
Communes are making a comeback
You heard it here first guys. Communes are no longer a things of the past where people waft around with Farah Fawcett hair in kaftans smelling of Patchouli (although that sounds pretty great tbh), communes are back.
Who can afford to move in with their partner just the two of them? Hands up! Didn’t think so. Couples will live together, side by side both in rented houses and when (more like if) they eventually buy.
According to the National Housing Federation British renters get the worst deal in Europe, paying double the continental average. As a result few of us can afford to save for deposits and as discussed above, it’s much cheaper to get four people into a two bedroom house, six people into a three bed or eight people into a four bed than it is to shell out for a one bed with a living room for you to sit, bathed in the glow of Netflix.
We’ll continue to share long after we’re married, raising our children with multiple ‘cousins’ that aren’t really cousins and ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ who bear no blood relation to them. We’ll cook huge lentil-based dinners for everyone in giant pots and car pool in order to take them to school. The good news is we’ll never have to fork out for babysitters; the bad news is that those Cluedo style investigations about who turned the heating up are going to continue until we’re pensioners.
We’re all going to be squatters
The lack of affordable housing, in London, but also across the country has mean that people have come up with some creative solutions.
Property guardians are basically legal squatters. They pay cheaper rent to stay in empty houses and flats but also offices and schools until they’re sold or redeveloped. In 2014 the most established company that places guardians, Camelot, grew by 39% and research from security firm Orbis in 2014 estimated that, at that point, there were around 4,000 guardians in the UK. This is a great short-term solution but you could, in theory, be kicked out with very little notice so not one for those who like stability.
Intergenerational housing is going to be a thing
The housing market in Britain basically looks like this: older generations bought houses when property was cheaper and have been sitting pretty in them watching the value rise ever since while young people watch them get further and further out of reach. According to the Intergenerational Foundation, the average age of a first time buyer, buying without assistance, has hit 37 and, because there is more demand than supply, average monthly rental costs have hit record numbers.
The majority of buy-to-let landlords are older owners buying second or third or, even, fourth homes to let to young professionals.
As people get older, their families grow up and move out, so many older people have lots of free rooms in their housing. We might all start moving in with them and offer to help them with their weekly shop, cook the odd meal and do the cleaning to earn our keep. There’s also loneliness epidemic and, according to the NHS, loneliness ‘increases the risk of premature death’ so surely this is win win.
We’ll all be living on wasteland
A brownfield site is land which was previously used for industrial purposes or had a commercial use but which is now disused or derelict. In 2014 the government announced that such bits of land were to be prioritized for development as they’re just sitting there….
Last year the YMCA launched it’s innovative stackable portacabin house, the Y Cube. The government doesn’t seem to be ale to build affordable houses quickly enough. A cube costs just £55,000 and can be put up in under a week, so maybe you’ll find yourself in one soon.
We’ll all get pub jobs
If rents really do become more expensive than mortgages as the Institute of Chartered Surveyors predicts, will it be cheaper to take one of those pub or bar jobs where you get free accommodation?
Figures from the latest English Housing Survey, based on research in 2013-14, showed that tenants were paying on average 47% of their net income on rent.
Will Generation Rent decide that it’s better to have pocket money to do what you like with rather than shelling out all the money you earn on rent and commuting, spending your entire life at work or on the bus?
We’re all going to move to Margate
*You might think we’re a bit too young to retire to the seaside but more and more of us are leaving London and settling elsewhere.
According to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics record numbers of young people left the capital in the year to June 2013, nearly 22,000 of them (that’s a 25% increase on 2010). They settled in Manchester, Bristol and Oxford.
Since then house prices in London have soared even further, more people than ever before are renting and it’s looking like the cost of renting will outstrip having a mortgage for the first time this year. So will more and more of us be leaving London earlier?
The government should take note. A 2015 study by economist Enrico Moretti from the University of California, Berkley, showed that a lack of affordable housing in America’s strongest performing cities between 1964 and 2009 cost the country financially. We won’t be able to afford to live in London if things carry on as they are and I don’t know about you, but, HS2 or no HS2, I don’t fancy commuting back if I do move away.
So far in 2016 people seem to be talking about Bath and Bristol. However, Margate and Ramsgate were the destinations of choice for many of the people in 2015, according to some rigorous Instagram stalking.
Here’s to a mass exodus. See you at Dreamland.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.