Boomerang Kids: ‘adulting’ in London’s housing crisis

We’re the ‘boomerang kids’. The sticky little tykes that our parent’s generation can’t quite shake. We yearn for independence, but cringe at the cost. To pay extortionate rent and sacrifice life’s little luxuries, or navigate our way through evolving relationships with our aging homies?

To ‘boomerang’ sounds quite fun, really. Those able to make that first leap towards independence, either gallivanting off to uni or by getting down to the hard graft, will remember that first whooshing sense of freedom. But for at least 2 million of us working young adults, that ‘boombastic’ force with which we believed we would soar into an MTV lifestyle petered out into a hissing, damp squib fart.
‘Hey, Mum. Hey, Dad. What’s for dinner?’

alice.hodgson.boomerang.kids.london.housing.crisis

Image via Flikr: Chris Coombe,  Paleontour, RichardObeirne

Boomerang Kids Living in London

Home ownership seems to be the ‘English Dream’. Once you graduate into your mid-twenties, you tend to shuffle towards this dream. That means scraping back those pennies, which isn’t easy if 40 per cent or more of your earnings are disappearing into the rent pot. This is just the beginning of the story if your job only pays you the so-called ‘living’ wage.

I unwittingly escaped this conundrum by moving abroad for six years. The most expensive rent I paid was €400 in Dublin (around £300). Of course, it’s all relative. Yet more and more people who are fortunate enough to be able to move out of London, or even to a more affordable country, are doing just that. I kind of feel like I missed the party. “But, why would you move back to London?”, is the usual response when queried on my current status. They scrunch their faces up incredulously, wide-eyed they silently gesture: “This b*tch be crazy!”.

Living With Parents as Adults

It took ten years, and I hoped it would never happen, but I did ‘boomerang’ right on back to my parents home. At first it felt quite luxurious, being fed and watered by my lovely mum. Walking barefoot on soft carpets, heaven. Sunning myself in the privacy of a well-kept garden, lush. But, that soon wore off. That rugged crown that I had fashioned from my own achievements, my own initiative and most importantly my independence, grew dim. It slipped below my jaw and started to choke me. How can you be an adult and live at home?!

ALICE.HODGSON.boomerangkids.london.housingcrisis.ElizabethHahnImage via Flikr: Elizabeth Hahn

It’s true, my ego got the best of me. Living at home for many people is the only way to survive financially, in a city where house prices continue to soar and living costs spiral – it certainly doesn’t make you less of an ‘adult’. But, it does mean living according to your parent’s rule. Living within each other’s pockets again makes your business their business – and vice versa – because more than likely it will impact on the harmony of the house. Your parents aren’t regular housemates, they share an immeasurable love for you that needs to be matched with the utmost tenderness and consideration.

Millennials, Happiness and the ‘Rent-trap’…

The bottom line is, you cannot live selfishly at home. To many, it might not sound admirable, but in order to exercise your freedoms, test boundaries and experiment with life you need to be able to do it your way, in the privacy of your own space. You cannot put a price on freedom. I would rather eat beans on toast all week and walk an extra mile to work than sacrifice my independence. It is through acts of self-determination that we can craft our own form of happiness. After six months, I moved out.

alice.hodgson.boomerang.kids.london.housingcrisis.RachelHImage via Flikr: Rachel H

I waltzed into the ‘rent-trap’, set off a clothes explosion and indulged in  camaraderie with my new housemates. All the while, the struggle around me is very real. As young renters pour their wages into oblivion, the prospects of ever owning their own home seems far off. The housing and homeless charity, Shelter, revealed that of those 25 to 34-year-olds who have been able to buy, one in six of them relied on inheritance money from a relative, and nearly a third were gifted money for a deposit.”.  So for those with, thankfully, young healthy folks or no family heirlooms, ‘adult’ life is ten times more difficult.

Another Shelter report  last year found that couples are shacking up sooner than perhaps they should, because they can’t afford to live alone. Still worse, 1 in 10 of those surveyed would like to leave their partner, but can’t afford to. Singletons and lovebirds are equally shackled. The report also found that high rents are preventing a quarter of 24 to 39-year-olds from having kids. This alone is outrageous.

Time for ‘Generation Rent’ to Fight Back?

Call us the ‘Boomerang Kids’, the ‘Peter Pan’ generation or even the ‘Moaning Millennials’ –  sure, our expectations were a little unrealistic – but don’t underestimate the power of one of  our most basic needs: shelter. We’re taught about its necessity at primary school and yet the adult world has still not yet made it a priority. London’s housing shortage is not new, nor is its roaring rents.

The result of this contemporary conundrum? Parents of a quarter of all working 25 to 34-year-old adults in the UK are parenting into retirement, when they should be eating cake and planning lengthy holidays. Their adult children, meanwhile, live muted lives, drained of the colour that all should experience –  controlled by the fear of an uncertain future.

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