Voices: What – and where – is ‘home’ to you?

Voices: What – and where – is ‘home’ to you?

Since I left home at 18, I have moved house 11 times. That’s nearly a move a year, and among people my age (and younger) this is very common.

Moving is such a rubbish process – there’s the month and a half’s rent as a deposit you need to stump up for, the frantic cleaning of the old place, the sweaty and depressing task of packing, and, once you’ve got a few bits of furniture in tow, the cost of a van (unless you can sweet talk a friend with appropriate transport). But the worst part is how frequent the whole palaver is and how impermanent every single new “home” feels.

There’s no point in getting good, solid furniture – you’ll just have to lug it to the next place, which might be even smaller. What if it won’t fit? In fact, why buy any little creature comforts – non-chipped crockery, for example, or an actually nice lamp – since it’ll all be shifted across the city (or the country) in a year or less anyway? Or accidentally wrecked by a clumsy housemate?

There’s a real sense of being locked out of the “good bits” of adulthood because of the housing crisis and the unaffordability of certain areas, particularly London, where so many industries are located. By “good bits”, I mean like having a home of your own; one you don’t have to share with randomers, and where you can paint the walls, renovate, change the garden, put up art, own a pet – you know, do the stuff that making a place worth living in.

My friend informed me recently that my penchant for cosy nights at home is down to having Taurus rising – don’t ask me any details, because I don’t understand astrology. But if like me, you enjoy spending time “nesting” in blankets, making your space as calm and pleasant as you can to create a bit of a haven in a world that feels dark and – at times – lacking in hope and joy, you might also understand how unsettling it is to know that this could be snatched away at any moment.

If you’re renting, as many people in their twenties, thirties and now forties in Britain do, you’re living in the “asset” of someone else – and the rent you pay them is likely to be preventing you from saving for the deposit to buy a home (or an “asset”) of your own.

Your landlord can choose to kick you out of your tenancy at any time – this is called “no-fault eviction”. It’s a practice that Boris Johnson’s government promised to end – but didn’t. And neither did Liz Truss, who was accused of “betraying renters” over plans in October to ditch the promised ban on no-fault evictions.

Your landlord can choose to put up your rent, particularly if you’re looking to renew your tenancy after your contract comes to an end. In fact, I don’t know a single person who’s gone to renew and not had their rent raised. It’s not even law that landlords have to ensure that their rental properties are “fit for human habitation” – this measure was voted down by the Tories in 2016, and 72 of the MPs who voted against it are registered as landlords themselves.

Landlords pretty much have all the power in this exchange, and privately renting means that home never feels as safe or stable as it should. There’s always a degree of uncertainty and for me, a tired little flame of anger.

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The reason I am renting is because I can’t get a mortgage (where I would be paying far less than my current rent) without proving I can afford the monthly payments by offering a massive deposit which I am prevented from saving for because I pay so much rent. Make it make sense! My rent funds the asset acquisition of people who already have multiple homes – they can’t physically live in them all!

It feels like the concept of home is being eroded or constantly shifted further out of reach, like a bunch of grapes swinging above tortured Tantalus. Is home only something that people who are over 50 are allowed? Or, if you’re my age, only if you’ve got rich parents or have been left money after a family bereavement?

What – and where – is home to me? Home, of course, isn’t just physical bricks and mortar – it’s where our loved ones are. And that is true regardless of which mouldy, draughty flat we currently live in, which costs almost 50 per cent of our take-home pay each month to rent. But the bricks and mortar, and who owns them – that matters too.

I want a home of my own. Not to be an asset that I can rent out and take a “passive income” from and continue the whole rotten cycle of renting misery. No, I just want one place that I can live in. Is that really too much to ask?