General Election 2015: 2m young adults living with parents to be offered government loans to move out, says Nick Clegg

Exclusive: The Help to Rent scheme would allow 18-30 year-olds to borrow the money for a one or two-month rent advance or tenancy deposit

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About 2m young adults still living with their parents would be offered government loans so they could move out and rent a home under a plan to be included in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto.

The Help to Rent scheme,  which would be a key Lib Dem demand in any post-election negotiations on another coalition, would allow 18-30 year-olds to borrow the money for a one or two-month rent advance or tenancy deposit. The state loans would be worth up to £2,000 in London and up to £1,500 in the rest of the country for people in work and could be paid back over 12 months  or two years. The interest rate would the same as for student loans, currently 2.5 per cent.

The policy is designed to help what has been dubbed the “boomerang” or “clipped wing generation” who still live with their parents despite having  jobs. Many struggle to save enough to start renting.

In an interview with The Independent, Nick Clegg said: “Increasingly, we see young people stuck in the family home as they can’t afford the upfront costs of a deposit to rent a property. It’s simply unfair that thousands of hard-working young people still have to live in the same bedroom they lived in when children.” He added: “When you get your own job, you want to stand on your own two feet, have your own space, and not have to rely on the bank of mum and dad.”

 

The Deputy Prime Minister was interviewed on his yellow battlebus as he toured constituencies in Cornwall, Dorset and Hampshire held by the Lib Dems which the Conservatives hope to seize. He admitted that his party was not fighting a traditional campaign and is not even prioritising some of the 57 seats it is defending because they are likely to be lost.

Although Mr Clegg was a remarkably upbeat mood, he was reminded that his personal unpopularity is an election issue. In North Cornwall, Dan Rogerson, who is defending the seat, is not using Mr Clegg’s name or even the Lib Dem brand in his campaign literature. In Mid Dorset and North Poole, the Lib Dem candidate Vikki Slade does not mention Mr Clegg in her eight-page campaign magazine, although she does name-check Danny Alexander and Steve Webb, the Lib Dem ministers. On the cover, the Lib Dems only get a mention in very small print.

Mr Clegg laughed off any embarrassment. “People are fighting on their local record. I don’t think people want cardboard cut-out politicians,” he said.

Does he feel the Lib Dems are being written out of the election script by the media because there are new kids like the SNP, Ukip and the Greens on the block? “We can get our message over in other ways –online, in town hall meetings, in pavement politics,” he said. “We have a wonderful opportunity to tell our story without it being mangled by the prism of our opponents.”

The Lib Dems’ polling and the leader’s own instincts tell him one thing: the party is going to “confound expectations” and do much better on May 7 than many commentators predict. “We are the Great Houdini of British politics,” he said. “We get out of tight corners and escape the knots our opponents make for us.”

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Nick Clegg: 'I've had bumps and scrapes but I want to carry on doing it' (PA)

If he has set a private target for the number of seat losses that would persuade him to resign as party leader, he is not saying so. He insisted it would not come to that. On his prospects in his Sheffield Hallam constituency, which Labour is targeting, Mr Clegg is “confident but not complacent.”  He was there for Easter weekend and will be again on 10 April.

“I am tougher and wiser than when I first went into government,” he said. “I have had bumps and scrapes but I want to carry on doing it.”

The biggest lesson he has learnt from five gruelling years in government is that, with hindsight, the Coalition should have explained more fully in advance the reasons for unpopular early decisions like the hike in university tuition fees, whose shadow he cannot escape. “We could have explained the invidious choices and unpalatable decisions rather than done things at such a breathtaking pace,” he said.

He accused the Tories of “intellectual kleptomania”  by stealing the Lib Dems’ flagship policy of raising the personal tax allowance to £10,000, which David Cameron said in 2010 was unaffordable. “The smaller party has had the big ideas in this Coalition,” he said. “The Conservatives acted like political magpies.”

Mr Clegg would form a coalition with either the Tories or Labour next month because “I am a pluralist.” But he would not join forces with Ukip or the Scottish National Party. “I am not going to put the SNP in charge of a country they want to pull to bits,” he said.

Who would he talk to first if Labour won more seats but the Tories got most votes? He insisted the chances of that are remote, saying the voters would tell us that one of the big two parties  had “the wind in its sails.”

However, some Lib Dems believe Mr Clegg might struggle to persuade his battle-scarred party to go into another coalition, and that it might prefer to rebuild in the comfort zone of opposition. He insisted: “Party members are proud of what we have done in government. If push came to shove, the Lib Dems would surprise people and have the courage to do what is right for the country – with a thicker skin and perhaps a little wiser.”

Before joining the Coalition, did he ever imagine things could get this bad for his party? Mr Clegg laughed: “I am not going to pretend wisdom with hindsight. But I knew it was going to be tough.” Despite the scars, Mr Clegg is clearly ready to do it all again if the numbers permit.

Case study: Olivia Arigho Styles, 21

Olivia Arigho Styles was 21 years old when she moved back in with her family in Kent. She had moved out to attend university, but upon graduating last year and securing a job in London she soon found that she couldn’t afford the city’s soaring rent. She now commutes to her job in London from her family home in Tonbridge, where she is living with her mother and 25 year-old brother.

“For me, the decision was purely financial. A combination of low wages, high rental and travel costs make living independently in London impossible.

Most of my friends are living at home - when you're doing badly paid, or unpaid, internships the financial situation is too precarious to move out. Even those with permanent jobs sometimes cannot move out due to low wages.

Of my friends, those that have secured well paying graduate jobs are the only ones able to continue living independently post-university.

If politicians want to make things easier for people in their twenties to be able to live independently, instead of considering grants, they should look at capping rent, reducing travel costs and increasing wages. We need to tackle the cause of the problem, not transfer the burden to the state.”


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