Generation Rent, quit your whinging!

Ella Whelan

Ella Whelan
Columnist

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Topics Politics UK

It’s official: ‘Generation Rent’ is the hot, new, pity-me identity badge for Britain’s disgruntled twentysomethings.

Towards the end of last year, the average UK rent soared to £761 per month. And this has led to renewed calls from fresh-faced campaigners for the government to step in and enforce rent controls. On 4 February, the campaign group Generation Rent is organising a day of action, Rent Freedom Day, in an attempt to liberate what it calls ‘a generation sentenced to rent slavery’.

Rather than take on the lack of house-building that is thwarting people across society, people of my age seem to be taking it personally, demanding a safe, cosier start in the adult world of renting – perhaps with some IKEA furnishings thrown in. And this sense of entitlement is only being burnished by older enablers, like Ed Howker and Shiv Malik, whose book Jilted Generation argues that the ‘loadsa money’, spendthrift antics of our parents has meant that a generation of young people are now doomed to a life of penury.

The contemporary penchant for blaming the problems of today on the lifestyles of yesterday is a worrying trend. What’s more, it’s complete bull. The only difference between the previous generation and our own is that now people from wealthy backgrounds are finding it difficult to move past renting. This is nothing new for working-class kids. And, contrary to claims from the ‘jilted generation’ brigade, the youth of today are, on the whole, enjoying far better educational opportunities and standards of living than their parents. As Frank Furedi has pointed out elsewhere, the moaners of Generation Y have never had to face the indignity of an outside loo.

You don’t have to be a Daily Mail leader writer to say that us young people really need to get off our arses and do something – because we really do. The housing crisis in the UK is not down to high rents, but a severe lack of new and adequate housing. We need to build millions more homes now. This is the kind of change the new generation needs to get out of bed for.

Generational tension has always been propellant of history. Young people have always carved out their own destinies, even when the odds were stacked against them. But Generation Y seems more interested in whinging about today than thinking about tomorrow.

Ella Whelan is a writer based in London.

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Topics Politics UK

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