Moving into a house-share used to be an assumed stepping stone after leaving home, before renting alone and then eventually buying a place. The housing crisis has changed that.
Owning a property in London for the average person is as easy as trying to take up a career as a contortionist – not impossible but probably not going to happen. So the alternative for those of us wanting to live in the ‘big smoke’ is a house-share.
I’ve lived in a house-share in London for years and I love it. It’s basically living with friends who you can watch films with, grab drinks with or help you to brush off a not-so-amazing day. But I know it’s not like that for everyone.
One friend had a housemate who would fly into a passive-aggressive rage if a tea towel was not returned ‘to its rightful place’ (the land of the tea towels?), then there was the ‘shedding housemate’ who left a confetti spread of hair in the bathroom everyday, so much so that my friend would be forced to play her own version of ‘the floor is lava’.
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The house-sharing experience is no longer predominantly for those in their 20’s and early 30’s, the fastest growing group of people to do so are those in their 40’s and 50’s according to Matt Hutchinson, Director of housemate-finding website Spareroom.
He says that some people share for affordability and they have some people in this age bracket returning to flat-sharing or even sharing for the first time in their lives following some sort of life-change like redundancy or divorce, others do it for social reasons.
The affordability of renting a property alone or even buying alone is changing the attitudes of graduates and millennials who no longer see house-sharing as a stepping stone.
“Younger people now are going into flat-sharing who don’t necessarily see the point where they will buy their own place, they’re not expecting it, we have a generation of younger sharers now who don’t necessarily expect to buy” Matt told me.
For some people they feel there is too much to sacrifice to become a homeowner, he says.
“It can feel distant and unreachable, to the point where you can save every single penny you’ve got and not go out, not have any holidays, not see friends and save for ten years and still not be able to afford a house so some people are thinking ‘well do I want to put my life on hold completely or shall I carry on renting and flat-sharing and doing the things I want to do’.
“We’ve reached the point where home should be the platform that lets you go out and live the life you want to but actually if you want to get onto the property ladder then life becomes about getting a home and you know it shouldn’t be that way around”.
From Matt’s experience the new bunch of graduates and millennials looking around think they don’t have any control over whether they can buy a property so they decide they are going to share their living space and therefore be able to live the kind of life they want to live.
And it is this shift, says Matt, that is starting to change the way we look at where we live and is reflected in action being taken by the government which is starting to put some policies in place for renters which was not happening five years ago.
“In New York around 30% of people own their own home whereas in London it’s more like 60%, we have a deeply ingrained attitude about our homes that we should have a home to have a stake in the community and society, as it’s becoming more and more difficult for people to attain it, it becomes a less and less useful attitude to have. The difficulty is, if you don’t own a home you get shut out.
Home is the most important thing in our lives and if you don’t get that right then everything else suffers and we’re not getting it right and so flat-sharing can be an amazing experience and it can also be very difficult – the key is to find the right people to live with. It’s that fundamental thing that home underpins everything we do”.
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So, is it worth sacrificing the small luxuries in life like meeting friends for dinner or being able to join the annual battle to buy tickets to Glastonbury ever again all to own your own place?
I guess for some people the answer is of course, yes. There are obvious positives to being a homeowner – for the nudists amongst us, there is of course a huge draw there. But for me, I have a love of clothes and just get too excited when the Pumpkin Spiced Latte lands each year in Starbucks to give that up….(I am unashamed to say I clapped with joy at the counter this year when I realised it was time).
So, for now at least, I’ll keep my clothes on in the shared kitchen and sip my pumpkin latte.