Over 40 and still having housing trouble

When I first started writing about renting privately with a family, I was contacted a few times to give interviews or talk about my experiences. This was the result of my name being out there as someone willing to talk about this subject and the coincidental announcement by Labour of their proposals designed to make life a bit more secure for private renters. I did several of those media things and had my brief moment in the spotlight (!) but there were others which I ended up being dropped from on account of my age.

Generation Rent is really about the young ones, the under 40s who really have had a dreadful time. A number of commentators of a similar age to me have noted that in their early adulthood they made the right decisions in terms of property in spite of themselves and ‘lucked out’. We all acknowledge this rarely happens to those in their 20s and 30s now without a lot of help and there seems to be little hope of that situation changing. Similarly I think it is acknowledged that the Generation Renter is not at fault here. Circumstances beyond their control conspired to make homeowning virtually impossible. However, I haven’t had a whale of a time either but shockingly I am over 40 and about to tip over into the bit where I’m closer to 50. Not Generation Rent but not Generation Safe, I fall somewhere uncomfortably outside the acceptable perimeters. Under 40=it’s not your fault; over 40=hmm, maybe it is..

Actually I think you may find that where the under 40s appear to have little hope, we over that age have a great deal less. Even if I am somehow given the opportunity to buy within my finances, convincing a bank to give me a mortgage could be tricky. I have an expensive family eating into my disposable income, fewer years left to work, statistically a higher probability of getting ill and let’s face it, I’m closer to dying. My earning power might be set to go down rather than up; many of us at this age are in the maintenance stage of our careers where we are just holding on to what we’ve got, not necessarily looking to promotion. Aging, amongst other things, conspiring to make homeowning an impossibility for me.

So the government’s decision to offer their 20% discounted starter homes to under 40s only, reinforced this feeling that I’m being left on the shelf. That’s a significant discount so why is it only available to those under 40? Turns out it was decided that a maximum age needed to be set though no explanation as to why that was the case. The cynic in me wonders if this is because under 40s are more likely to call on their parents to help with deposits and so this policy helps them as much as the prospective homeowner. Perhaps it’s a plain and simple vote catcher. But maybe there is a judgement going on in suggesting that the younger generation are more deserving of help; that we over 40s had our chance and blew it? It feels a bit like that.

Of course it’s not like the PM is not trying to help. As he reminded us earlier this week, private renters have no need to, for example, feel jealous of the housing association tenants being offered the chance to buy their homes at discounted rates. We are being helped too with shared ownership schemes and Help to Buy all designed to get us onto the property ladder that little bit more easily (albeit not as easily as the discounted starter homes). Hmmm… the problem is, what if you still can’t manage to become a homeowner even with this minimal support?

I expect these initiatives have been a benefit to some. However, there are a whole host of possible reasons why buying, even with the help on offer, might still fail to be an option. And if buying isn’t an option then you are stuck in private renting for the foreseeable future (if you’re lucky since the alternative is homelessness.) I don’t have the figures but I’m guessing that there are a lot of people who just like me, are looking at being a tenant in the PRS for a long, long time. For us, depressingly, it appears no help is being offered to live out our time in this sector with better conditions, more security, stronger rights and more manageable rents-things which would greatly improve our quality of life at this point. Basically, you either get out of private renting and ‘get on’ through having the prerequisite circumstances to allow you to grasp onto these homeowning lifelines or else I’m afraid it looks very much like you’re on your own because making the PRS better for tenants of any age doesn’t seem to be what this government is about.

Feeling my age and feeling very much like I am on my own right now.


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