The media this morning (31 May) are very excited about a survey showing that nearly two-thirds of people aged 20 to 45 in the UK expect never to own their own home. Most of the coverage did not even mention that the survey also revealed that nearly a quarter don’t want to.
The Today programme gave the issue a prominent position on BBC Radio 4. Several daily newspapers reported it as a piece of alarming news. Even the relatively progressive ‘i’ newspaper (sister paper of the Independent), had a front page headline declaring “Generation doomed to rent for a lifetime”.
I am 34 and will never own a house. But I am not “doomed”. I am happy to rent. Happy not to have endless meetings about mortgages with banks and financial advisors. Happy not to have pay out whenever something goes wrong with the electricity or plumbing. Happy not to get on the “property ladder”, beloved of those who look forward to buying a house only so that they can sell it and buy another one.
The surprising thing about the survey is that nearly a quarter of people questioned did not say they wanted to own their own home. This is despite all the newspaper front pages about house prices, the TV programmes about buying homes and the constant barrage of messages presenting home ownership as an essential part of being an adult. Not only is ownership held up as the marker of success, but talk of the “property ladder” fuels the notion that the purpose of possessions is only to acquire more possessions.
The recent economic crisis has taught many people that we cannot rely on a fantasy of endless resources and that we need a radical overhaul of the economic system. Bankers, ministers and much of the media don’t seem to have noticed that anything has changed.