I hate it here: The SCREENSHOT team on how the rental crisis is impacting gen Zers

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Mar 2, 2023 at 12:08 PM

Reading time: 3 minutes

“I feel like I’ve aged about 10 years during this whole process.” — Filipa

The current renting crisis in London is a complete nightmare. Arguably far more frustrating than the Leonardo DiCaprio 25-year-old romance complex, the housing market has become a seriously contentious and stressful issue for so many gen Zers.

The cost of living crisis has impacted so many young people across the entirety of the UK, but there’s something specifically heinous and unironically mean-spirited about the renting situation in London. We always knew that landlords were the devil, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that they only represent one small hurdle in what feels like the most ridiculously difficult obstacle course ever invented.

According to Zoopla, the average cost of renting a home has reached nearly £1,000 a month as rents rise at their fastest pace for 14 years.

On top of that, studies have shown that the number of properties available to rent via agents has halved since 2019. Of course, to anyone currently attempting to rent in London, this is no surprise whatsoever.

You practically have to have a full time executive assistant house hunting if you want to be considered for any property half decent. And by half decent I, of course, mean that the rats live in the walls, rather than in the living room.

I’ve been searching for a place to rent in London for two months now. My friend and I have scoured the infamous ‘gals who rent’ Facebook page, organised insanely awkward cocktail meet-ups with strangers who seem to care far more about their proximity to Clapham Common than their office, and been bombarded with phone calls from estate agents who promise they’re “on [our] side.” And currently, the only thing we have to show from it is a depreciated bank balance.

And I’m not the only one, whether you’re searching for a flat, or trying desperately to stay in one after rent increases go through the roof, we’re all struggling.

So, rather than propose any logical or practical solution, I thought it’d be far more apt if we collectively bask in our sorrows together. And, in an attempt to really push this rather unhelpful yet slightly comforting mantra of “we’re all in this together,” I spoke with members of the SCREENSHOT team to get their perspectives on the current situation—and potentially help some gloomy renters feel less alone.

Some hectic, some unhinged, and some optimistic, here’s SCREENSHOT’s take:

Name: Filipa
Age: 25
Job title: Creative Social Media Editor

“I made an offer on a two bed flat recently with a girl from the ‘gals who rent’ Facebook group. The offer was accepted and I paid the holding deposit so that we take the property off the market—these things move insanely fast, so you have to be on it. A couple hours later the girl from the Facebook group messaged me bailing out, saying that her friends had a spare room for her after all. So, I’m officially back to square one looking for rooms, only now, I’m down £300.”

“It isn’t an understatement to say that my story pretty much sums up the whole renting experience in London right now.”

Name: Bethan
Age: 22
Job title: Creative Social Media Editor

“I’m petrified that the renting crisis will never calm down and I’ll live with my mum and dad until I’m 40.”

Name: Asher
Age: 23
Job title: Junior Video Editor

“I was looking for a flat for around nine months, with no luck. In the end I found one through a friend of a friend of my sister and ended up moving in within a few weeks. It really went from zero to 100 very suddenly. The house I live in now is in pretty bad condition, but we’re staying put as the rent is so good for the area. I literally have a hole in my ceiling that leaks water and no heating but I’ll always choose location over the house itself.”

“Oh, and my curtain rod completely shattered this morning for no apparent reason—happy renting!”

Name: Mason 
Age: 23
Job title: Editorial Assistant and Staff Writer

“The six months I spent looking for a flat with my mates was a literal nightmare, everywhere decent was out of the way or didn’t allow for sharers.

“The price of these flats versus the states they were in was ungodly.”

Name: Imaani
Age: 24
Job title: Junior Video Editor

“It shouldn’t be this hard to find an affordable home that is actually worth the money and isn’t the size of a kitchen cupboard.”

“The rental market is honestly the ghetto. I hate it here.”

Name: Med
Age: 31 (Still counts as he’s about as gen Z as a millennial could get)
Job title: Creative Social Media Editor

“At first, the thought of moving to South London was a little scary as I’ve been so used to living North of the river. Ultimately though, moving into a house share was a lot more fun than I first thought.”

“I was definitely one of the lucky ones.”

While it’s definitely nowhere near sufficient, there have been some schemes put forward by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The London Living Rent plan was created as a type of intermediate affordable housing for middle-income Londoners who want to build up savings to buy a home.

London Living Rent homes will be offered on tenancies of a minimum of three years. By offering a below-market rent, tenants are supported to save and given the option to buy their home on a shared ownership basis during their tenancy.

It’s just not good enough though, as the current plans are in no way adequately inclusive or expansive. You can’t spend two minutes online without coming across personal testimonies from young individuals who are finding it impossible to find, and maintain, decent accommodation in London. So, how long is it going to take before we’re listened to?

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