Relief Today but anxiety tomorrow?
I received a WhatsApp message from my landlady yesterday. With bated breath I read it, anticipating a rent rise or a Section 21 “no fault” eviction. Today, it is just a notification that our Wi-Fi will be disrupted later in the week. Today I am relieved. Tomorrow could be a different story. As could the next, and the day after that. At any moment, at any time, I could get the news all tenants dread – pay more or move on.
Regularly, I look online to see which properties are available in my local area. House prices remain at eye-watering levels, while rents continue to climb up and up. An eviction or a move would inevitably lead to a hit on my savings. I remain as passive and subdued as I can, unwilling to report disrepair or engage with my landlady in any way, in the hopes that she will not raise the rent amidst rising food bills and energy costs.
Is this the norm for young people?
This is not an unusual situation but it is fast becoming the norm for young people in the UK. It is also increasingly stretching out – past our present, and long into our futures. Homeownership remains a pipe dream and the insecurity and unaffordability of renting remains ever present in our minds.
Mental health decline
The state of our housing is taking a huge toll on young people’s mental health: 63% of all private renters in a 2022 Generation Rent survey said treatment from their landlord or letting agent had worsened their mental health. In 2023, a study by Essex University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), found that members of the so-called “boomerang generation” – young adults who moved back in with their parents after university – reported better mental health than other groups. Their ability to escape insecure and unaffordable housing was identified as a key factor in this.
Low wages, high housing costs
And is there any wonder that the state of the housing market is such a cause for anxiety? According to the World Economic Forum, millennials in Britain have a lower income in their 30s than previous generations did. For the first time in history, younger people are poorer than their parents. And this trend looks set to continue amongst younger generations. Meanwhile, the median monthly rent in England between October 2021 and September 2022 was £800 – higher than at any other point in history, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Young people have no choice but to remain in a market which continues to eat up more and more of our incomes. And the rental market itself is an extremely stressful place to be.
Eviction, homelessness and anxiety
Section 21 “no fault” evictions mean that a renter can be evicted arbitrarily at the whim of their landlord for any reason, be it a revenge eviction for reporting disrepair, to raise the rent to unaffordable levels, or to turn a property into a holiday let, removing a perfectly good home from the rental market.
At Generation Rent, we regularly hear from people who develop anxiety and depression, even PTSD, when facing evictions that were of no fault of their own. The constant threat of an unexpected and unfair eviction notice coming through the mail at any time creates a sense of fear amongst so many private tenants. And while all age groups can be subjected to such evictions, young people are now looking at an entire lifetime of living so insecurely and uncertainly.
Along with eviction comes the threat of homelessness. In 2021, the Centrepoint charity reported that youth homelessness had risen by 40% in five years. Housing is even less affordable and secure than ever, and with less financial resilience, young people are facing the sharp end of the sector.
There is hope
The good news is that there is a way out of this mental health housing crisis by: building more affordable homes; introducing greater regulation; and increased funding for local authorities and welfare. All three measures will work to dramatically rebalance the market and alleviate the anxiety that young people face. All that is lacking is the political will to change the system. And change is already around the corner. The biggest reforms in a generation are set to be introduced with the upcoming Renters’ Reform Bill. If we work together now to ensure that the Bill achieves its full potential in bringing about a fairer deal for renters, this could be the beginning of something truly groundbreaking and beneficial for young peoples. As debilitating as poor mental health is, young people must work together now to turn anxiety into action, and to fight for safe and secure homes for all.
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You can find out more about Generation Rent by going to their website: https://www.generationrent.org