Today was marked by the signing of a new contract at work. As well as being my first contract for a long time without a specified end date, it brings with it the promise of a modest, but extremely welcome increase in salary. Welcome since over the last five years I have noted that the combination of taking care of a family, paying for an appropriately sized privately rented house, whilst commuting by train to work has meant that the money I’ve had available after all the bills have been paid, has been shrinking year on year.
It seems I’m not the only one and indeed my situation has been much more comfortable than that of others. The Resolution Foundation recently published research which shines the spotlight on that sector of the UK population who spend over half of their disposable income on ongoing housing costs: the so-called 'housing pinched'. Their findings are significant and depressing. Data relating to 2011-12 shows that 1.6 million households were 'housing pinched'. Of those just under 1 million households (that’s 2.2 million people) were in work. To put this into perspective, in 2012 the Resolution Foundation reports that the average household spent £60 on each of the following: food, non-alcoholic drinks, transport, recreation & leisure. The ‘housing pinched’ on average had £60 a week left for absolutely everything.
That’s a fairly grim picture and as the report itself points out, this kind of coping is bound to come ‘at the cost of well-being of families’. I'm particularly sympathetic to these statistics concerning families, but for me there is an even more insidious message from these findings relating to younger members of the adult population. Where being ‘Young, Free & Single’ were states to envy (albeit ironically) not so long ago, perversely it seems that those very conditions coupled with renting privately and living in a one-bed place in London, vastly increase the likelihood of being ‘housing pinched’.
It seems like just one more manifestation of the carpet being pulled from under the feet of the younger generation. No longer privy to the long accepted life trajectory of early adulthood with its struggles through first jobs and privately renting for a bit to save to buy a first property; the period of relative stability following promotion and better pay; and the light at the end of the tunnel as things get easier with outgoings on a home reduced or disappearing and so more money to play with. They instead find themselves in short-term work contracts and short-term privately rented accommodation eating up an enormous percentage of their income. There are no certainties or clearly trodden path to follow for this sector of society. For them there seems only a steep never-ending ascent in terms of expenditure with no opportunity to save and no obvious reward at the end.
They will cope, this generation, but at what cost?
Fiona is a private renter in Colchester. If you would like to contribute to the Generation Rent blog, please email email@example.com.