Whoever invented landlords anyway?
I mean, it’s great they exist (my spell check offered evict there – how does it know?!) But without them, 37% of us (The Guardian, 2018) couldn’t access shelter and be kept safe from the elements, and as much as I’m all for an outdoorsy lifestyle, I’m hugely grateful that we don’t live in a tent with the incongruous weather we have the pleasure of being party to in the UK.
Why isn’t it that we get given a house, at birth? Wouldn’t that be great? I mean, don’t we all need one anyway? Why is it all to do with money?
My parents own their house, outright I believe, and have owned their houses since I was about 2 years old (when my mum met my step-dad), but the first house I ever lived in was a council house, with my mum and my brother. If it hadn’t been for the council, we would have been homeless and if my mum and dad hadn’t split up back then, we wouldn’t have been eligible. Couples struggle financially too.
The whole thing is a minefield and to be eligible for housing, the list of requirements is really, really, really long! If I had a tenner for every time someone said to me, “Just pretend you and your husband have separated, then they’ll give you a house,” I’d be flush enough to buy a place by now. Alas, I’m a firm believer in honesty and a (tiny) part of me believes that one day, I’ll get my house, and it’ll all work out.
But recently, I realised, we are so not alone in this mess. 50% of babies are born to renting families (BBC, 2019), a fact I take comfort from learning.
As I said, my parents have mostly owned their homes, but it’s not just them: my brother and sister own theirs and my grandparents own theirs, and my Dad and my cousins and in fact, I think everyone in my extended family. So when it comes to family gatherings it can feel a bit isolating being the only renters, not to mention the financial imbalance, with it being more cost effective to own than to rent.
There’s a strong sense of feeling secure attached to housing. Before I got pregnant (something I 100% planned and budgeted for) I was saving to buy a house. I’d set a 5 year plan: I was lodging in various houses for cheapish rent, barely paying to eat because I worked in catering and, “them’s the perks”, and I was so hell-bent on becoming a homeowner that I culled my social life right back to Christmas and birthdays. However, the cruel mistress of the biological clock screeched her alarm call at me around 33 years of age, and I realised if I didn’t get cracking I might miss out on becoming a mum (or at least, giving it my best shot). And there and then I chose to spend my hard-earned savings on procreating instead of home-buying.
Now, mother of one gorgeous, baby boy I don’t regret my decision one jot. But I am eternally angry at the state of the house-buyer’s market.
What’s interesting (read frustrating) is that as much as the government have fashioned the help to buy scheme, assisting first-time buyers onto the bottom rung (by offering shared equity), the quality of new-builds (the only housing offered within the scheme) are poorly built and in no way crafted with longevity in mind, 50 years roughly. I see a lot of these new homes in my day job, as a domestic cleaner. Mostly, they are owned by young families, just like us, and often they are akin to juxtaposing a tent with the Taj Mahal: paper-thin walls, leaking windows and doors, and cheap fixtures and fittings, seemingly to add class to a place, only to see their high gloss finish fading after a relatively short time frame.
But oh, how I would jump and swirl and shriek and shout, to own my very own shabby fixtures and fittings…