‘Generation rent’ - Unable to afford a home? It could hinder your transition to adulthood

The term ‘Generation Rent’ denotes young people who are increasingly living in the private rented sector for longer periods of their lives because they are unable to access homeownership or social housing. Drawing on data from two studies, a new research paper published in the  Journal of Youth Studies  finds that those living in expensive and/or rural areas may find it particularly difficult to settle down, and that a lack of a stable home environment is inhibiting their transition to adulthood.

A group of researchers based at the University of St Andrews and the University of Sheffield used data from two studies - one drawn from a sub-set of the ‘Mind the (Housing) Wealth Gap’ project (funded by the Leverhulme Trust) and one drawn from a follow-up study titled ‘Housing Generation Rent: What are the Challenges for Housing Policy in Scotland?’ (funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland). The second study was selected on the basis that their work involved interacting with young people living in the private rental sector and/or private landlords either in a policy or housing support capacity.

The study revealed that many young people who found themselves living in privately rented accommodation felt unable to fully meet their ‘home’ and security goals, which left them feeling frustrated. This frustration was often expressed in relation to the short-assured tenancies that dominate the sector, enabling landlords to terminate a tenancy at the end of a contractual period: "I feel particularly frustrated with having been in rented accommodation for so long and having to move on every year – it’s difficult to put down roots and it’s just got really expensive," (Rhona, 29).

Many young people regard becoming a parent as a significant event in their transition to adulthood, and this was reverberated in the data with young people making connections between ‘settling down’ and establishing a secure home. Sarah, 25, responded, "We do want to have a family, we do want to get married, there are not going to be any of those things unless we have a solid house!"

The researchers found that, "In addition to problems associated with short-assured tenancies and the high cost of renting privately, employment and income insecurity strongly precluded some from ‘settling down’ in one place. Many recognised the interconnections between housing and labour markets."

The data presented in this study demonstrates the complex nature of housing, family and labour market transitions, intersected by geographical and socioeconomic positions. While some young people remain in the parental home during their twenties and thirties, many rely on the private rental sector for their residence, which is argued as a contributing factor to the prolonging of the transition to adulthood.

Imogen Catling

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