FeaturesCollective living: new lifestyles of generation rent

Collective living: new lifestyles of generation rent

My grandfather loves to sit me on his knee and tell me stories about when he was a young man, particularly those where the moral revolves around how he knuckled down, saved money and bought his first home before he was 20. I appreciate the advice, but I wish he’d realise that no 34 year old still lives with their mum out of choice. The only reason I’m still sat on his knee is that I’m hoping the exertion will hasten his demise and I might inherit enough to own a bedsit by the time I come to retire. The older generation are happy to tell youngsters they have unrealistic expectations of property ownership, but that’s a bit rich coming from people who had the option of mortgaging a three-bedroom house for the same amount of cash that some of us are putting towards renting a parking space.

What’s more irritating is that his generation’s ability to snap up investment properties in the 70s means that us youngsters must expect to pay an inflated rent in order to keep our elders in cruise holidays and beige trousers. I can’t even “be happy with renting a nice place” when 40% of my monthly income goes towards a damp hovel with no garden and walls so thin I can hear my neighbour waxing her bikini line. There’s still a property ladder, but the last person going up covered it with grease and broke most of the rungs. If you’re single, unless you’re expecting either an inheritance or a promotion, you should probably stop dreaming of owning anything grander than a chalet with its own chemical toilet and a bucket to wash with. If you too can’t get a mortgage, the following creative solutions might feel horribly familiar.

Shared housing: you too can star in your own wacky flatshare comedy

Sharing a house is a super idea when you’re a student, probably because at 18 it seems incredibly liberating not to have your parents breathing down your neck about hoovering your bedroom and washing the dishes. It inevitably becomes tiresome in the extreme, because you aren’t just sharing a house with Tamsyn from your World Cinema class, you’re also sharing it with Tamsyn’s sock microbes, her inability to turn the heating off and her loud and pretentious boyfriend, Rupert. Even if you leave university and move into a flat the size of a double bed, it’s at least a double bed where nobody eats all of your cereal or brings ten people back from a dubstep rave when you’ve got lectures in the morning. This inconvenience is no less true when you’re all working adults, as house share life is less like Friends or The Big Bang Theory than it is like Peep Show or a Channel 5 documentary about a man who kills his flatmates because they have noisy 4AM sex and never replace the toilet roll.

Multi-generational homes: mother knows best

Growing numbers of desperate young people convince themselves that living with Mum will become magically less stressful if only there’s some kind of formal agreement in place. Perhaps if you buy a larger house together, or sign a joint lease, Mum will realise that you’re an adult now and your choices about diet and laundry are yours to make? WRONG. She spent six plus hours squeezing your fat head out of her birth canal, and wiped your bottom until you were old enough to do it yourself: she will never let you forget this. If you continue to live together you’ll always be a child – any partner you have will be on indefinite probation, your privacy will be consistently disrespected and you’ll always have a theoretical curfew. On the other hand, if you endure the omnipresent tutting you will continue to get free dinners and inappropriate sympathy any time you catch cold or graze one of your knees. Mummy’s brave soldier needs to get a good night’s sleep, and there will be a crustless sandwich in his lunchbox so he isn’t too tired for that board meeting.

Life on the (not so) open road

It might be near-impossible to purchase stationary property, but there is another way to own your own space. Most of us could just about scrape together enough money to buy a home on four wheels, and if you consider mushrooming vehicle size against the shrinking square footage of houses it won’t be long before a Mercedes van is larger than a two-bedroom flat. It might not have a proper toilet (or any toilet), but you can squeeze in a kitchen that shames many bedsits and get some surprisingly comfy beds for diesel-powered romance. You’ll be living in a community of other nomads, so it might be possible to pool your resources and purchase one of those tin baths from Steptoe & Son. The major downside, aside from space, security and storage, is that we live in Jersey, so the only place you can legally overnight in your mobile home is the lawless enclave known as Le Port car park. Although I have some affection for this strange alliance of middle-class dreadhead dropouts and caravan-dwelling retirees, it has dangerous levels of bongo drum ownership and the available amenities extends to a few bins and a cafe that doesn’t like you.

Dystopian dormitory dwelling

Given all of the above, you might conclude that the only realistic solution lies in drastically lowering your expectations of a home. As always, the capitalist market is one step ahead of you, so in the near future I am confident that Jersey will import a housing model which is becoming popular in other overcrowded places, like San Francisco, Tokyo and the prison cities where they make iPhones. Optimistically marketed as “micro-apartments”, but more honestly known amongst residents as “coffin apartments”, these tiny homes offer considerably less square footage than a typical Jersey garage. Think an extremely compact single hotel room, where you need to put the toilet lid down to shower, except you also have a shelf for your microwave and a tiny little desk. Storage is found underneath your bunk and the only window is so narrow you couldn’t possibly jump out of it. The only space is in shared common rooms – like a university hall of residence where everybody swaps tips on how to cook instant noodles in a kettle. It feels like living in the future! Except the future is one depicted in a film where the lead character is oppressed and decides to join a revolution against people who are privileged enough to have enough space for a couch. At least it’s safe, warm and the space is all yours, although this isn’t too far away from the same argument you might use to justify caging a hamster. It doesn’t appeal to me, because I’m happy where I am – hoping that I can play my cards right and that Mum will let me use the garden shed to celebrate my 40th.

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