No, renting doesn't mean that you're 'throwing your money down the drain'
Most millennials are firm members of Generation Rent. And there isn’t much we can do about that.
As the housing crisis continues to rage and property prices spiral at breathtaking velocity – most of us have to sit back and accept our fate.
This can be a somewhat painful process of acceptance.
For the thousands of us brought up by baby boomer parents, equating property ownership with prosperity, stability and adulthood, renting is often seen as something shameful, something that needs to be escaped.
But why do we think this? It comes down to the fact that so many of us have internalised the old capitalist adage that owning property is the only true path to success.
Buying a house isn’t the be-all-and-end-all that we have been taught.
And renting into your late 20s, early 30s and beyond, isn’t a failure.
I want the snarkiness to stop. The superior, sneering comments about how renting is a waste, how you’re throwing your money away if you’re not paying into a mortgage.
Renting has given me the freedom to live in a property I love, in a city I love, and do a job that I love.
I don’t consider any of that a waste of money.
I do concede that it is partly circumstance that dictates this opinion.
I don’t really have another option, so some of this thought process is a form of self-protection.
But I am far from alone. If you live in London, are under the age of 35, and don’t have a) rich parents or b) a successful career in the financial sector, renting is most likely your only choice.
Figures from the Nationwide Building Society show that a typical 20% deposit in London is now more than £80,000 – which is £30,000 more than a decade a go.
And when the average yearly salary for Londoners is just £34,473 – you can see where the problem lies.
Home ownership, in London at least, has become something that is exclusively for the extremely privileged.
That’s not to say there aren’t young people who have chosen lucrative careers, worked hard to save and managed to buy a home on their own.
It happens, and I admire anyone who achieves this.
But they are a tiny minority, and it takes the average Londoner almost 10 years to save enough for a deposit.
And if you aren’t able to do this, it isn’t fair that you’re looked down on or made to feel ashamed for renting.
Renting can be a true joy. I have been renting in the capital for more than seven years, and I have loved most of it.
Despite my outward and clearly apparent happiness with my situation, I am still repeatedly asked when I am planning on buying.
Or met with a puppy-dog pity face when I tell people I’m ‘still’ renting. I refuse to feel bad about my failure to conjure £80,000 out of thin air, just because other people can’t extricate their own self-worth from their value in bricks and mortar.
I choose to judge my value in other ways. Renting equals freedom. If you are offered a dream job in another city, or fall in love and decide to upend your life, you can do so at the drop of a hat.
Yes rental contracts and absurd admin fees are an issue, but finding someone to rent your room is a damn sight simpler than selling your home or finding reliable tenants.
Like many millennials, I change jobs every few years, I change cities, I have aspirations to live abroad – a mortgage would only tie me down.
While I am still child-free and burdened with minimal responsibilities, I’m keen to avoid anything that even remotely resembles shackles.
I currently live in an affluent, charming area of London.
My little alcove in north London feels like a village, but I can be in the centre of town in less than 30 minutes.
I could never live somewhere like this if I chose to buy. For most of us, buying anything within the realms of affordability would involve decamping to the arse-end of Zone 6.
Where no one will visit you and your commute will be tripled. I’m not from London.
I moved here to reap the many benefits of living in this incredible city.
Sacrificing my proximity to the action for the only benefit of owning the flat I live in, doesn’t nearly seem worth it.
When people say that renting is a waste of money, they don’t seem to ever take into account the thousands you save on not having to deal with maintenance.
A pipe bursts, your boiler breaks down, the roof falls in – these things do happen.
If you’re renting, they’re annoying, but if you own the property they can be disastrous and leave you out of pocket for months.
When my boiler breaks I call my landlord and they fix it. And pay for it.
Some landlords are awful, unhelpful and make life difficult when you need things doing – but there are regulations to prevent the worst of them and, ultimately, you can always move out.
One of the most annoying presumptions about renting is the idea that you can’t really make it your home unless you own it.
But making somewhere feel like home is about more than your ability to paint the walls any colour you like. The flat I rent with my boyfriend is the closest I have come to making a ‘home’ since I moved out of my mum’s house when I was 18.
No, we can’t paint the walls, and we have to use weird sticky, velcro things to put pictures up – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t our home.
Home is a feeling. A space where you create a sanctuary from the outside world, a space filled with love and great food, dinner parties, movies and lazy mornings, a space where you can be your true self.
You don’t need to own somewhere to create that. So don’t pity me for not owning a flat.
I have created a home that I adore. And I didn’t have to save £80,000 to do it.
I’m painfully aware that this is an extremely middle-class conversation.
You have to be privileged to start with to rent in London, or any big city.
I don’t want to ignore that issue. There are plenty of people who would not be able to afford the flat I live in, and when I first moved to London my dad lent me half of the £800 I needed for my deposit.
If my landlord evicted me, I know I could count on my family for back up. Not everyone will have that safety net.
So renting does have its drawbacks, and I understand the arguments about the potential lack of stability.
Particularly for people with children. What I really want is for the Government to build more affordable housing so that property ownership can be an option for anyone who needs it or wants it.
But until that happens, it’s important that we interrogate our emotional attachment to home ownership.
So much of how we judge each other is based on external markers of wealth and a capitalist conception of success.
But self-worth and individual happiness is entirely personal, and almost never related to the things we own.