Justice For The Nation’s Single People In Their Quest To Find A Home

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Assorted colour concrete houses under white clouds in the daytime

I am a 29-year-old single person who, up until recently, lived in London. For the great majority of that time, I lived in HMOs (houses in multiple occupancy), a living arrangement I also experienced during my time at uni. So, I have skin in the game when discussing the housing market for single people. You’d be surprised by the number of people who can’t say the same (here’s a clue: many of them are making the rules).

Recently, I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw an article that was causing outrage; I was disappointed when I found it was centred on the ‘shock’ and upset surrounding a street in Newcastle which is now 94% HMOs, thus making it ‘unlivable’ for families. The general consensus seemed to be that it was unfair that a whole street was dedicated to students and single people. I’m pretty sure my eye-roll could have powered a wind turbine.

Before I go into why I find this so frustrating, I’d like to preface it by saying that the housing crisis is a multifaceted problem. Of course, families deserve to be housed in safe and friendly neighbourhoods. My point, however, is that not everywhere needs to be livable for them.

People who don’t fit the conventional family structure exist and have just as much right to housing as a family. Why shouldn’t a whole street be dedicated to people in HMOs? There are entire estates dedicated to families in other places, and no one bats an eye at that.

This is yet another example of misplaced anger. Rather than being angry at greedy landlords and a lack of decent tenant rights, we are encouraged to vilify single people – especially young single people – again. And for what, this time? Daring to live in a place where other people similar to them live?

Is It Ever Not Capitalism?

So, where did this idea come from? I think it’s rooted in capitalism (shocking, I know). In a capitalist society, the supposed ideal nuclear family provides the next generation of workers. And, given that capitalism is all about – well – capital, prioritising housing for families means that the wealth accrued by a set of parents is then passed on to their children via their home, thus keeping wealth in the same family across generations.

While it seems the government is desperate for everyone to be in these nuclear families (given their emphasis on housing families above all else), what they have failed to acknowledge is that the concept is becoming more outdated with every year that goes by. In fact, the number of people in a nuclear family has been declining for decades (the reasons for which could fill up an entirely separate article).

That means we have a large number of people – across all ages – who require housing as a single person. You’d think that means the government would have prioritised more suitable housing to be built and sold at an affordable rate. If only.

Instead, we are in a situation where wealthy landlords have been allowed to exploit single people looking for housing by splitting what was designed as a family home and squeezing strangers together in it. All while making hugely disproportionate profits. I’d wager that most adults who live in HMOs would rather have their own place, but when that’s financially impossible, and they are viewed as unequal regarding who deserves a home, what other choice do they have?

Stop Blaming Economic Problems on Avocados and Netflix

While our parents could afford homes when they were barely 20, today’s younger generations do not have that luxury. Where exactly are we expected to live, if not HMOs?

Compared to other countries (like Germany, for example), the rental market is so atrocious in the UK that not only are single people struggling to live alone but they’re also priced out from being able to afford to save any money, which keeps them off the property ladder as well. All the while, the government allows landlords to increase rents and hoard as many properties as they like with absolutely no regulation.

Furthermore, a – quite frankly – classist idea is touched upon in the original article I cited that suggests that those in HMOs are disruptive. First, there is a difference between having the occasional party and being antisocial. God forbid people enjoy themselves. Secondly, it’s a huge (and unfair) generalisation to suggest that everyone in HMOs (in this article, specifically students) is disorderly.

Not only are single people expected to live in tight quarters with complete strangers, but they’re also expected to have the good grace to shut up and say thank you while they’re at it, apparently.

Girls, Gays, and Theys Just Wanna Have Fun… In Their Own Home

And then there’s the fact that social ideals have changed. For various reasons, we are moving away from a society where families start young, and in many instances, people are simply choosing not to have children at all. As is their right. So, where are they supposed to live?

Something I find so confusing about this situation is that while, yes, single people aren’t contributing to the next generation of workers (although some single people do have children they don’t live with), they are still contributing to society financially by working and then spending money. In fact, given Marriage Allowance, some single people will actually pay more tax than a married couple would.

So, why are we punishing single people by making it impossible to live alone and then twisting the knife by complaining about how they don’t live up to ambiguous family standards – despite not being a family.

Justice for the Nation’s Single People

So, why are single people seen as inferior to families? And why must everywhere be ‘livable’ for families? I’m not saying we should segregate families and single people, but I do think we need a shift of attitude that moves away from the idea that only families deserve to live by themselves.

Why the outrage that a single street is unsuitable for families? So? If I could afford to live alone, I wouldn’t choose to live near a school because that’s not the type of atmosphere I’d want to live around. I’m not throwing my toys out of the pram, saying every home should be suitable for single people. And yet, the opposite is being said. I’d encourage those upset by this to redirect their anger to those who’ve caused it: the government.

We are a society made up of many different types of people and familial structures, yet we are only concentrating on one. The diversity of our society is what makes it thrive, and yet we are ignoring a whole demographic. Can you blame us for being angry?

How about we stop trying to force people to live a certain way and embrace diversity. Celebrate diversity, even. Not everyone needs or wants children and a family, but everyone needs a home. Let’s work towards making that happen.

Words by Becky Lauder


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