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Joining Generation Rent isn’t a quirky choice – it’s our unavoidable state of economic insecurity

When we couldn't even afford the flat with the demonstrably wonky floor, I had to come to terms with the fact I'll probably be renting for life.

“The floor is wonky.” My boyfriend is the first to point out that the floor is wonky. “Hmm,” says the estate agent, a man who has been professionally trained to pretend the floor isn’t wonky. “Well, you could always get a home inspection before you buy,” he says, hopefully.

It’s hard to imagine that there is a home inspector who would not place “floor at an angle that floors should never be” in the column marked “Bad”.

However, it turns out we needn’t have worried, because as it quickly becomes ­apparent, we cannot afford this flat. It may be cheap (see: floor, wonky), but it turns out that the online mortgage calculator lied. The real mortgage calculator – a man in a tie – was not as kind.

I have now been forced to accept that I am part of what is colloquially known as “Generation Rent”. (We have also been called “the new young fogeys” and “digital natives”.) This nickname makes lifelong renting sound like a quirky choice rather than a state of perpetual economic insecurity, but it sums up the current state of affairs well. Home ownership in England is at a 30-year low, and the government was recently forced to admit in a white paper that the housing market is “broken”. In the past 12 years, the proportion of people aged 25-34 who buy a house with a mortgage has decreased from 53 to 35 per cent.

I wouldn’t dare paint myself as disad­vantaged, but it is hard to come to terms with the fact I will probably never own a house. As a child, the idea of owning a home was such a given that my fantasies focused instead on owning one with a slide, and a ball pit, and a secret room hidden behind a bookcase. Now any house at all is a dream.

Many members of the older generation like to call my age group “entitled”. Though I mostly disagree, on this one matter I will concede that they are right. I am entitled. I am entitled to own a home if my partner and I work hard every day, if we never rack up a single penny of debt, if we save and budget in an attempt to secure a deposit. Despite doing these things, however, we can’t afford a place to call our own.

What I can’t forgive older generations for is the myth that we millennials simply need to give up our luxurious habits in order to become homeowners. Aside from the fact that these “luxuries” they speak of seem to be our £3 supermarket meal deals (the only suitable reply to “What’s wrong with a soggy spam sandwich?” is “Everything”), this is the basest propaganda, designed to make us feel guilty for the economic mess-ups of the generation before us.

Last month, the BBC broadcast a story titled “How to own a home by the age of 25”, featuring four couples who had managed this feat. The tricks and tips seemed to be: use the government’s Help to Buy mortgage scheme (now discontinued), and don’t buy anything, ever. I resent the lie that young people just need to “give up our posh coffees”. I don’t even drink coffee.

Help to Buy is no big loss, because this mortgage scheme, which enabled buyers to get a mortgage with just a 5 per cent deposit, favoured the affluent middle classes and could be exploited by the already privileged. Although various elements of Help to Buy still exist, many claim that they do nothing to resolve the underlying crisis.

Our one flat viewing was part of a pipe dream (the pipes, by the way, were peeling and rusty). Short of finding out that I have a long-lost relative who wants me to stay in a haunted house for one night to prove I deserve a million dollars, I stand no chance.

And I still haven’t come to terms with our position. The bowls would match the plates, you see, and the plates would match the cups. The only dirty housemate I would have to worry about would be a chocolate cocker spaniel named Ludo, and – because dogs don’t have the ability to turn on the hob – we’d never run out of pans. There would (and I am especially keen for this) not be a landlord who, upon the news that actual human waste was coming up into the kitchen sink, threatened to evict me for complaining about it.

I imagine that this dream can still happen because I imagine that eventually my finances will change. But if they do, the house prices will have changed, too. In 2016 the average British home increased in value by £56.57 a day – a day! – totalling £19,348 in the year. I will never catch up with this. I am stuck in an impossible game of tig.

So hey, let’s be more like the French and the Germans, who are happy to rent for their entire lives. The only problem with this attempted attitude adjustment is that the situations are so different. Renting in Germany is a widespread and safe experience, with an array of legal protections for tenants. In the UK, it took a seven-month campaign for the government simply to ban letting fees – a policy that hasn’t yet been put into practice.

Coming to terms with not owning a house is, therefore, coming to terms with a lot of other things. A life of renting means a life where I live at the whim of a landlord, where my home could be taken away at any minute. It means a life of housemates, and a life where it takes weeks to fix leaks and boiler breakdowns. I won’t get to paint my own walls, or even stick pins in them, and I won’t get to see Ludo’s little paws scramble across the (wonky or not) floor.

PS: If you want to help buy me a house, please feel free.

Amelia Tait is a digital culture writer for

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 09 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The return of al-Qaeda

Photo: Getty
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Michael Carrick is the “Geordie Pirlo” that England misunderstood

The Manchester United legend’s retirement announcement should leave Three Lions fans wondering what if?

That it came in the months leading up to a World Cup arguably added an exclamation point to the announcement of Michael Carrick’s impending retirement. The Manchester United midfielder, who is expected to take up a coaching role with the club afterwards, will hang up his boots at the end of the season. And United boss Jose Mourinho’s keenness to keep Carrick at Old Trafford in some capacity only serves to emphasise how highly he rates the 36-year-old.

But Carrick’s curtain call in May will be caveated by one striking anomaly on an otherwise imperious CV: his international career. Although at club level Carrick has excelled – winning every top tier honour a player based in England possibly can – he looks set to retire with just 34 caps for his country, and just one of those was earned at a major tournament.

This, in part, is down to the quality of competition he has faced. Indeed, much of the conversation around England’s midfield in the early to mid-noughties centred on finding a system that could accommodate both box-to-box dynamos Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

As time went on, however, focus shifted towards trequartistas, advanced playmakers and those with more mobile, harrying playing styles. And the likes of Jack Wilshere, Ross Barkley, Jordan Henderson and Dele Alli were brought into the frame more frequently than Carrick, whose deep-lying capabilities were not utilised to their full potential. That nearly 65 per cent of Carrick’s England caps have come in friendlies shows how undervalued he was. 

In fairness, Carrick does not embody similar characteristics to many of his England midfield contemporaries, including a laudable lack of ego. He is not blessed with lung-busting pace, nor is he enough of a ball-winner to shield a back four solo. Yet his passing and distribution satisfy world-class criteria, with a range only matched, as far as England internationals go, by his former United team-mate Paul Scholes, who was also misused when playing for his country.

Rather, the player Carrick resembles most isn’t English at all; it’s Andrea Pirlo, minus the free-kicks. When comparisons between the mild-mannered Geordie and Italian football’s coolest customer first emerged, they were dismissed in some quarters as hyperbole. Yet watching Carrick confirm his retirement plans this week, perfectly bearded and reflecting on a trophy-laden 12-year spell at one of world football’s grandest institutions, the parallels have become harder to deny.

Michael Carrick at a press event ahead of Manchester United's Champions League game this week. Photo: Getty.

Where other players would have been shown the door much sooner, both Pirlo and Carrick’s efficient style of play – built on patience, possession and precision – gifted them twilights as impressive as many others’ peaks. That at 36, Carrick is still playing for a team in the top two of the top division in English football, rather than in lower-league or moneyed foreign obscurity, speaks volumes. At the same age, Pirlo started for Juventus in the Champions League final of 2015.

It is ill health, not a decline in ability, which is finally bringing Carrick’s career to a close. After saying he “felt strange” during the second-half of United’s 4-1 win over Burton Albion earlier this season, he had a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an irregular heart rhythm. He has since been limited to just three more appearances this term, of which United won two. 

And just how key to United’s success Carrick has been since his £18m signing from Tottenham in 2006 cannot be overstated. He was United’s sole signing that summer, yielding only modest excitement, and there were some Red Devils fans displeased with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to assign Carrick the number 16 jersey previously worn by departed captain Roy Keane. Less than a year later, though, United won their first league title in four years. The following season, United won the league and Champions League double, with Carrick playing 49 times across all competitions.

Failing to regularly deploy Carrick in his favoured role – one that is nominally defensive in its position at the base of midfield, but also creative in providing through-balls to the players ahead – must be considered one of the most criminal oversights of successive England managers’ tenures. Unfortunately, Carrick’s heart condition means that current boss Gareth Southgate is unlikely to be able to make amends this summer.

By pressing space, rather than players, Carrick compensates for his lack of speed by marking passing channels and intercepting. He is forever watching the game around him and his unwillingness to commit passes prematurely and lose possession is as valuable an asset as when he does spot an opening.

Ultimately, while Carrick can have few regrets about his illustrious career, England fans and management alike can have plenty. Via West Ham, Spurs and United, the Wallsend-born émigré has earned his billing as one of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, but he’d never let on.

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.