‘Generation Rent’ now can’t afford to.

It’s true that many young people, especially those referred to as ’ millennials’, say that don’t want to own their own homes – surveys put this as high as a third.  Young people give a range of responses from ‘I don’t want to be ‘tied down’ to ‘I’m thinking of going off travelling’. This is a significant and longer-term trend (the proportion of adults aged 25-34 owning a home falling from 55% in 1996 to 34% in 2016).

The social commentator David Goodhart refers to an the emergence of an increasingly rootless, generally highly educated ‘anywhere’ generation – while some media outlets fantasise about young freelancers ‘working from home’ on laptops in exotic places. But even if some young people are breaking many of the habits associated with their parents, the growth of ‘generation rent’ can’t be divorced from issues of affordability and the breakdown of traditional routes into the labour market.

Young people are taking longer to leave their family home due to extended stays in education.   ONS statistics show the number of 20–34-year-olds living with their parents has risen by one-third since the mid-1990s. Today, intensified by the pandemic, over a quarter (28%) of this age group live with a parent. The so-called “boomerang” phenomenon – young adults returning to their parents’ home until well into their 20s or early 30s – is also a permanent feature of UK society. It’s more pronounced amongst men than women.

The growing cost of housing has fuelled these trends. Renting privately consumed 9% of average incomes in 1961, rising to 13% in 2016. The ONS considers the average person or household in the UK could expect to spend 23% of their pay on rent.  It considers that spending anything over 30% is not considered “affordable”, but data shows over 40% of under 30s now in this category, with big rises since last year.

These figures exclude students. The average amount students pay for rent in the UK is £148 per week – which works out at around £641 per month. As you may expect, the universities with students paying the most in rent are based in London – with an average rent of £238 per week at one university. According to the Financial Times (29/08), first-year undergraduates at several universities were informed this month that they would have to find their own rooms owing to the lack of space in halls, or offered accommodation miles way.

The accommodation crunch comes as rental markets are exceptionally tight in UK cities and made worse last year when some universities accepted far more students than they had planned. There are also concerns about the continued availability of cheaper private sector accommodation with landlords citing increased cost of living issues and changes to tax relief on ‘buy to let’ properties as reasons for leaving the market.

Meanwhile, the average annual rent for purpose-built student accommodation in the UK reached £7,374 in 2021/22, a 4.4% increase on last year and 16% up on pre-Covid levels (2018/19). Since 2011/12, the NUS reports average rents have increased by 61%. Another report calculates that 70% of the beds surveyed are operated by private halls providers. On the back of soaring energy bills, these will hike up prices further?

3 thoughts on “‘Generation Rent’ now can’t afford to.

  1. NUS Scotland has launched a campaign over student rents in the coming term, just getting under way, following the revelation in a survey that average rents for purpose built student accommodation in Scotland have risen by 34% in the last three years. https://www.nus-scotland.org.uk/articles/student-rent-rises-34 https://www.nus-scotland.org.uk/articles/demand-for-action-on-broken-student-housing-system

    It’s not often commented but the Council Tax rebate system has long (30 years) provided a financial incentive for students to live in purpose-built/student only accommodation during their studies. Students living ‘at home’ or with their own family still often live in households paying full council tax if two or more adults in the household are not students. The rebate system only kicks-in in full for all-student households, or very partially where one adult is not a student. Where a student lives with a non-student, the household still pays 75% of the full council tax, typically well over £1,000 per year. The increasingly privatised providers of purpose built or student-only accommodation have used this system to ratchet up the rents in recent years. Universities have largely given up their responsibility for housing students living away from home. Reforms to the housing and rental system must include demands for the abolition of the council tax and its replacement with a more progressive system, such as a local income tax or service charge based on income, where student maintenance loans are disregarded as ‘income’ as they have to be paid back. In the Scottish Parliament, the SNP promised to abolish the Council Tax in their 2007 manifesto but after 15 years in government we are still waiting.

    Scotland has a growing mass membership union of tenants, called ‘Living Rent’, which is mainly made up of young people, many graduates of the sort profiled in this excellent article. Edinburgh is a particular hot-spot for exhorbitant rents and exploitative landlords, who will also evict at a moment’s notice to get into the more lucrative Air BnB type market. A rent freeze and a moratorium on no fault evictions is demanded. https://www.livingrent.org/

  2. I think we’ve heard the (right-wing) ‘social commentator’ David Goodheart’s anywhere cosmopolitans v. those ‘rooted’ in blood and soil!

    1. I think we’ve heard the (right-wing) ‘social commentator’ David Goodheart’s anywhere cosmopolitans v. those ‘rooted’ in blood and soil before!

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