I ‘still’ live at home. I occupy the bedroom I’ve had since I was seven years old. My dad drops me off at school the station in the morning. I come home every night and talk to my mum about my day. I’ve never moved out.
Hopefully, the intended sarcasm on the word ‘still’ comes through loud and clear, because despite the occasional judgmental gazes of new acquaintances as they clarify ‘you’re still living at home?’ I have nothing to be ashamed of and feel unashamed… most of the time. Now and again I’ll have a brief wobble and question my progression in life. However, as soon as I remember the bigger picture, my pride is restored.
On average, London tenants spend two-thirds of their income on rent. I cling on to a lot more of mine and I don’t have to deal with the declining quality of accommodation in London’s rental market. No grumpy landlords or slugs on the walls for me! #winning
Being younger than the internet and sitting at the point where Generation Y/Millennials becomes Generation Z, I now find myself grouped within yet another new sub-generation: The Boomerang Generation. Defined loosely as young adults aged 18-34 who still live – or have returned to live – at home with their parents.
...continue my quest for the Great British Castle my culture seems conditioned to need as the vital stepping-stone to responsible adulthood.
Most commonly driven out of the rental market by salary-gobbling rent prices and unemployment, it is estimated that a fifth of young adults in the UK live with their parents until they are at least 26 – and it’s a similar story in the US. 28% of that fifth, myself included, do so in order to squirrel money away in hope of eventually
stepping foot on the property ladder ourselves.
So it begs the question, why are the rest of them ‘still’ at home? It seems that a large portion are so disheartened by their inability to move out and move on that they’ve moved back; and are spending their extra cash on going on holidays, pursuing hobbies and anything else that distracts them from the dismay of their situation.
That right there is the indirect source of why I get a pang of unease when ‘confessing’ that I still live at home. Older generations are quick to criticise younger people for being ‘lazy’ and not working hard enough to secure themselves a house. However, ‘back in their day’ the average house price in the UK was as low as 3.09 times the average salary. Today, it’s around 6.24 times. To afford an average-priced flat in London, buyers need to earn £140k when the average income for a Londoner is £30k.
Is it any wonder that some young people are losing hope of ever heading up their own household? Despite my own efforts to save, I’ll admit that my Airbnb account sees more transactions than my Help to Buy ISA. Because frankly, the prospect of having to save for a 20% deposit seems so unattainable that I’d rather try my hand at short-term renting and briefly escape my life to see how someone else is living his or hers and in so doing, broaden
Perhaps one day it will convince me to give in and rent like our European neighbours in Switzerland or Germany, where homeowners are in the minority. Or maybe I’ll continue my quest for the Great British Castle my culture seems conditioned to need as the vital stepping-stone to responsible adulthood. Who knows?
What we do know is that a wave of young British people is currently contemplating never owning their own home: a wave of people who will be looking for new ways to secure their identities and feel that they have ownership over the space around them.
Writing this piece has made me realise the small behaviours I’ve adopted which help me feel I’m in control, independent and in the run up to a new chapter. I’m slowly ridding my bedroom shelves of the childhood nostalgia I’ve accumulated over 15 years of occupancy. Particularly treasured articles are banished to a box under my bed whilst the rest is discarded in an attempt to create that trendy, minimalistic studio apartment feel for me and my partner in our own corner of the family home. I also buy a different fabric softener and insist on doing our washing separately because for me, having a different scent to the other members of my family is a subtle yet powerful distinction.
This is where it gets interesting. Real opportunity lies at the
point where new behaviours are evolving in reaction to circumstances that don’t fit with current cultural expectations.
Young adults are asking themselves: Will I ever move out? Do I actually need to move out? What’s the point of moving out?
In turn, designers should be asking themselves: What’s the future of home ownership? How can people derive a sense of ownership from an environment they don’t own? What are the new rites of passage for becoming an adult?
Meaning-centred design, over to you.