The boomerang generation: A lack of affordable housing is putting huge strain on young lives

For the first time in years, housing is a top five issue for voters

Campbell Robb
Wednesday 22 January 2014 13:20

Independence seems like a rare commodity for young people today.

Most are starting adulthood faced with a stark choice. While a lucky few are able to rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad for a hefty deposit, many more are attempting to set up home in expensive, short-term private lets, where they need to ask a landlord for permission to hang a picture or paint a wall.

But Government figures out yesterday showed that more than 1 in 4 young adults are taking a third option: setting up home in their childhood bedroom.

Yesterday’s figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that there are now 3.3 million 20 to 34 year olds who are living with their parents – a number that’s soared by more than a quarter since 2006.

Every day, Shelter’s advisers see the consequences of our housing shortage, from families facing eviction to couples on the brink of repossession, or young people with nowhere to stay.

A growing part of that picture is a generation priced out of home ownership, struggling to see when they’ll be able to find that stable home to put down roots, start a family and get on in life.

There are plenty of reasons why young people might live at home, but our research shows that the majority of ‘boomerang kids’ are living with mum and dad simply because they can’t afford to rent or buy anywhere else.

Of course, most parents will do whatever they can to help their children.

But while some prefer living under one roof, many of the parents we hear from talk about the strain it puts on family relationships.

Their most common worry is for their children’s wellbeing – they fear that their adult children are being held back from the independent life they need.

For some it causes financial headaches too: not many parents expect they’ll have to pay for big family food shops when their children are in their twenties and thirties, while others are forced to stay in their family home instead of downsizing.

Commentators often point to examples of other countries where the idea of generations living under the same roof is more common – Spain or Italy, for example. We just need to adjust to their way of life, they say.

But poll after poll shows that the vast majority of young people in this country still want to own their own home, and that this has been the case for decades.

That leaves us with the worst of both worlds. Young people in this country have been brought up with the aspiration to own their own home, like their parents did - but find themselves facing the prospect of living with their parents well into their thirties.

They’re working hard and saving - but they need to be met halfway.

That means we face a stark choice. Do we ask our young people to abandon their aspirations? Or do we roll up our sleeves and come up with real plans to give the next generation a better chance?

For the first time in years, housing is a top five issue for voters, and ministers won’t have missed the fact that it’s not just boomerang kids who feel hard-done by - it’s their parents too.

In other words, politicians already know that they need to do something to give hard-working young people a decent chance of a home of their own.

Now the Government must get serious about building the affordable homes we need to bring rents and mortgages back into people’s reach.

There are plenty of solutions on the table that could end our housing shortage for good. But boomerang kids - and their parents – know only too well that doing nothing isn’t an option any more.

Campbell Robb is the chief executive of Shelter

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments