Generation Rent: What type of London renter are you?
Have you heard the one about the young family who are served a Section 21 notice and have to leave their home in two months? Or what about the one where the tenant is unhappily co-habiting with mould because they’ve got a ‘good deal’? Or the one where an £1,800 per month studio with a bed next to the fridge goes for over the asking price in a Hunger Games frenzy? No punchline: looking for somewhere to live in London is brutal right now.
Demand is high, supply is low, spirits lower. We’re in the grip of a housing crisis, and while there are shards of light (Generation Rent is doing important campaign work, last week the Skipton Building Society announced plans to launch a 100 per cent mortgage aimed at would-be first-time buyers and Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for rent freezes), what do you do right here and now? These are the new London living tribes...
They flew the nest years ago only to find their new nests snatched away by Section 21 notices (or, you know, [insert other depressing reason]). And now it’s time to head to pastures old. The migration back to your childhood bedroom might look like regression and feel a touch sad, but take solace from the fact that you are not alone. According to the Office for National Statistics, 26.8 per cent of London families have at least one adult child in the home — from 2011 to 2021 the capital saw the biggest increase nationally. Hey, at least you’ll probably get your washing done and your dinner made.
THE NEW COMMUTERS
Once upon a time, if you were reading this on a train from Waterloo to Woking one would assume you were heading home to a hatchback, golf club and 2.4 children. Not any more. A new commuter class has risen. You’ll spot them departing King’s Cross in their Margiela Tabis, and over-hear them bemoaning season ticket prices in the smoking areas of Soho. They are half in, half out. In, culturally and socially; out, on the electoral register. They still live London even if they breathe Surrey on the weekends. According to Hamptons, last year 40 per cent of renters moving home in London chose to leave the capital, up from just 28 per cent a decade ago, with the top 10 local authorities they are heading for all directly bordering London. The home counties and ’burbs are buzzing. Hertfordshire, hip? Who knew?!
Let’s try some honesty on your next dating profile precis: single, professional, clean (mostly!) Londoner seeks someone (anyone!) to weather the cost-of-living crisis with, and split the bills. GSOH not essential (but it helps!). Gone are the days of going Dutch on the bill, now Londoners are thinking bigger: they want to go Dutch on the rent. Living solo in the capital is ghoulishly expensive — new analysis by the flexible co-living brand Gravity Co shows the cost of renting a one-bedroom in London is rising faster than larger homes in 50 per cent of boroughs — but, having long outgrown the uni-era house-shares, this often means prematurely shacking up with your new beau. How romantic! Nothing like chit chat about Ocado deliveries, council tax and smart meters to really dial up the erotic charge in a nascent relationship. A fast-track to a Zone 2 postcode — and divorce.
The home counties and ’burbs are buzzing. Hertfordshire, hip? Who knew?!
THE RENO RENTERS
There is something about the innately impermanent nature of renting that means you’ve probably turned a blind eye to all manner of hideous crimes against taste. It’s not your forever home, so why bother changing it, right? Wrong! At least according to the reno renters who are embarking on home improvements with gusto, 12-month lease be damned. They’re replacing cabinet doors, they’re hanging their own curtains, they’re fixing and fitting and, in the case of one Londoner, even painting murals on their kids’ walls. In a 2018 video tour of her apartment for The Cut, actress Amy Sedaris suggested thinking of your security deposit as a ‘personality fee’. It might not be forever, but the now is worth investing in, too (just check with your landlord first — or have some white paint on hand).
Eastbourne is the new St Leonards, which was the new Margate which is the old new Hackney. And it’s better! At least that’s what they’ll say, the droves of Londoners decamping from the capital to live the good life elsewhere, and so fiercely loyal are they to their turf that only the brave would dare challenge that. They’ll also (at length) tell you that, yes, you can get oat milk and there’s a darling little independent bookshop you must visit, and the pace of life is better, and there’s a sense of community, and (this is the real kicker) they bought a handsome four-bed Georgian townhouse for the price of a studio at in Camden. The con? It’s different, but it ain’t London, sorry.
THE SOFA SURFERS
Cast your mind back to the days when waking up on a mate’s sofa was the sure sign of an eventful night out. Ha! At least then you had stories to tell and your own bed in which to see out the rest of your hangover. Now a new breed of nomads-by-necessity is temporarily (they swear!) making use of the friends’ generosity until the rental market calms down. The rules for the grown-up bed hopper? For God’s sake, show some manners. Chip in for groceries. Do not extend invitations to other waifs and strays. Make yourself scarce when required and say thank you. And obviously... TIDY. UP. AFTER. YOURSELF. What if you’re the homeowner? Be careful who you let in, you might find it hard getting rid of them...
THE RESISTANCE RENTERS
London or bust! Yes, it’s expensive. Very expensive. Prohibitively, hideously expensive. But living in the capital is their priority above all else. These f***-it tenants are staying central, thank you very much. For them it’s location, location, location. Who needs clothes? Or holidays? Or food?