Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 March 2021
It is the younger generations and lower-income households that are most affected by the housing and homelessness crisis. Huge aspects of their lives have become precarious and insecure, as a result of insecure, low-paid and often part-time jobs, and insecure and unaffordable housing.
Generation Rent is the new housing precariat, living with precarious housing, precarious work contracts and an inability to access mortgage credit, alongside unaffordable house prices and rent. There are workers paying over half of their wages on rent. A person with an average salary, renting the average home, now has to allocate 86.3% of their earnings on rent (UN, 2019).
Generation Rent results from growing housing unaffordability and increasingly precarious and low-wage employment, a trend that began in the 1990s and 2000s during the last housing boom and continued into the post-2008 global financial crisis and subsequent austerity period. They are being outbid by global investors, wealthy individuals and so-called ‘cuckoo’ funds (after the cuckoo bird, which pushes other birds’ eggs out of their nests and moves in), turning homes into wealth-accumulating commodities, with the only option for Generation Renters being to rent co-living micro-homes.
Increasingly, these micro-apartments – essentially expensive ‘shoebox’ homes, sharing with dozens of other people, known as build-to-rent ‘co-living’ – are the only way for Generation Renters to afford to live in the biggest cities. In the US, up to half of renters in key cities face high housing cost burdens (unaffordable housing), spending more than 30% of their household income on rent (PriceWaterhouseCooper, 2019).
Many Generation Renters are also forced to live at home with their parents for much longer, perhaps unable to move out. Generation Rent could equally be described as Generation Stuck at Home, or Generation Home Birds. In Ireland, 82% of men and 75% of women aged 16 to 29 are still living at home with their parents, in contrast to Denmark where just 40% of men and 32% of women under 29 live with their parents (Eurostat, 2019).
Generation Rent also comprises construction workers (tradespeople, including plumbers, blocklayers, and electricians), who have become some of the most precarious workers in the economy.