I won't be able to afford a house until my parents die

Renting in the UK is awful and no one in their right mind would choose to do it long-term.

To me, these are irrefutable facts. 

You have to contend with landlords who act like they’re doing you a favour by taking a third of your income, rather like a tapeworm popping its head out of you and demanding kudos for your mineral deficiencies.

You have to deal with estate agents and property managers, who are the least capable people I have ever met in my entire life – and I’ve genuinely met a professional farter.

Then you have no guarantee you’ll be able to stay in your abode long-term and you often don’t even have permission to put up a simple poster, which is something prison officers even permitted at Shawshank. Every day you work hard for the privilege of paying off someone else’s mortgage.

Right now, depressing as it sounds, the most likely chance of me or many of my generation – I’m 30 – owning any assets, or scrap of a house, is when our parents die. 

They were playing an entirely different game when they got on the property ladder, even if they had low-paying jobs. My father was a ground worker and my mother worked in retail when they bought their first house, but they could still own one.

They’ve since separated, so when they pass on, I’ll get half of two houses. That’s because – unluckily – I have a sister, but if I also outlive her, I’ll be living high on the hog of inherited assets. And what a hog.

Does even projecting about my parents’ death sound callous? Well, it feels like I’ve been forced into thinking about the prospect and how life will change after it. But I’m not happy about it.

My show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year is a jaunty hour about how much I hate myself, including why this line of thinking doesn’t help.

If a third of your income is going to a landlord, you simply do not have enough money to live a reasonable quality of life and put money aside for a future house deposit (especially in a cost of living crisis).

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In reality, you need to inherit assets – in the form of your parents’ home, possessions and any wealth accrued during their lifetimes of hard work – to sell and combine into a deposit to get onto the property ladder. You’re essentially handing over the souls of those who created the home you grew up in to gain your own.

I live in London, which is especially bad to rent in. Estimating using the average monthly rent I have paid across all the houses and flats I’ve lived in, times by the number of years I’ve lived in London, it has cost me 70k (aka a deposit) to live among maniacs, mice and mould (Hackney is vibrant).

While I believe the private renting system is inherently unethical and bad for the economy, there are those in the property industry who see it as a legitimate business. If you are one of those people – and you take your work seriously – I’d like to address you directly now: You are absolutely terrible at your jobs.

Landlords, property managers and estate agents provide appalling service for an over-inflated charge and act like they’re bending over backwards for us while failing to do the bare minimum. I don’t make as much money as them, but I know that I am so much better at my job – and I am literally a clown (I am a stand up comedian, which is like clown, but even more quietly horrifying).

Landlords also make it harder for anyone who wants to own property. Obviously, they extract an unreasonable amount of your monthly income, preventing you from building up any savings.

They’re also part of a bigger picture, the housing crisis. A huge part of the crisis, however, is supply and demand. There is too much demand and not enough supply, so private and corporate landlords limit the supply for their own gain.

In the UK, we need to build approximately 5million homes to sort out the housing crisis, yet every government for the past 30 years has failed to build enough housing through a combination of ineptitude, quibbling over the land used and the fact too many MPs are landlords.

On top of that, according to Open Democracy’s 2021 investigation, a quarter of Tories are landlords. It stated: ‘In total, 115 (18%) MPs across all parties have declared earning money from rent, with Tories making up the vast majority. This compares to around 3% of the UK’s adult population, meaning MPs are roughly six times more likely to be landlords.’

Now, I’m sorry for suggesting that we might want to set some ethical standards in public life, but I don’t think it is acceptable to be an MP and a landlord. I believe that there are all manners of conflict of interest there, and this must change. It does somewhat explain why our leaders seemingly don’t care about renters and aren’t serious about housing.

But this is why the grim reality of the situation is that my generation often needs to rely on inheritance to get us on the property ladder.

Of course, I want my parents to flourish in retirement and enjoy every moment of it, so it brings me such dread and misery that I have to view their homes as my lifeboat away from the wreckage of the SS UK Rental Market (the only sunken ship no one wealthy would put themselves at risk to examine).

Housing is a hard situation for my generation. I hate that it’s making us rely on the deaths of our relatives or that it’s so insecure we all have to hoard familial wealth (if you can! Plenty can’t!).

I don’t want to have to see them that way. This country is sliding back into feudalism, and it’s bad for our economy and quality of life.

What kind of a life is it anyway, when so much of your future depends on death?

Alexander Bennett: I Can’t Stand The Man, Myself at Gilded Balloon: Patter Hoose (Coorie), 2 – 27 Aug at 9pm

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