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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Laurie Purnell Prynn

OPINION - I’ve now joined Generation (can’t afford to) Rent

Half my life is squashed into a lock-up garage in Acton. The other fills my small childhood bedroom.

In the three years since leaving university mid-pandemic, I have moved in and out of home six times. I am an experienced, if not proud, member of the “boomerang” generation.

The first time I moved it was not a good place to live (dirty, scary and about to be condemned). The second time I was priced out (professionals started moving back into London after Covid), and the third I was sold out (when my landlord let me know, weeks after moving in, that they were selling the flat).

Each time the solution, faced with financial uncertainty and a dearth of affordable rentals, was to move home — Generation Can’t Even Afford to Rent, even with a well-paid job.

Any change in fortune, such as rent rise or redundancy, can force you out in a disorentating instant

Stepping over that family threshold again is a bittersweet feeling. On the one hand there is comfort and familiarity. The first few weeks are a dream — the luxury of the space of a whole house, having your friends round feels cheeky and transgressive again, parties in the garden, playing host, and enjoying the excellent water pressure.

Then comes the feeling of inertia and lethargy, even guilt that you’re enjoying this cushy lifestyle. You start romanticising the life you had, forgetting the ceiling mould, and looking back with rose-tinted glasses at what now seems like a lost era of experimentation, boldness and self-sufficiency. I am lucky that I have parents who live in London and who let me come home. That always undercuts feelings of self-pity. However, my case is far from unique.

Renting in London has become so expensive — since 2022 the number of postcodes with average rents below £700 a month has gone from 43 to zero — that any change in fortune, such as a rent rise or redundancy, can force you out in a disorientating instant.

Coming back into the rental sector is a lot harder. Stock is scarce and some landlords are now refusing to accept those on grad schemes or professionals just a few months into a new job.

As a result, the old received wisdom that life truly begins when you graduate, get a job and move out is wrong. That journey is rarely linear now.

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