Forget buying a house, many of us are lucky to find an affordable apartment – with a roommate, or two
By Blake Pinto
Living in Southern California definitely has perks. Affordable housing is not one of them.
According to a 2017 draft report from California’s Department of Housing and Community Development (which is no longer accessible on their website, but is briefly outlined by the LA Times) it’s no illusion that millennials face more dire circumstances than previous generations.
They are not simply whiny brats, thin-skinned slackers, or over-coddled individuals who were never properly prepared for the “real world”. Instead, they are a generation of people facing a housing crisis unrivaled in modern-American history.
In 2016, housing costs increased 4.6 percent from the previous year in Southern California (Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County), according to the Consumer Index Report, the largest increase since 2007 – just before the bubble popped.
The majority of renters are spending more than 50 percent of their monthly income on the black hole that is rent. After bills, groceries and, yes, let’s admit, a tiny bit of fun, there is scant left to throw into a savings account for emergencies – let alone purchasing a house.
So, what we do? Adapt. Roommates are always the easiest option to split costs. An article in The Atlantic highlights communal living, with the headline “The Hot New Millennial Trend is a Repeat of the Middle Ages.” It is also becoming progressively less strange for someone to continue lurking around their parents’ house well into their late twenties or early thirties. According to the U.S. Census Bureau this isn’t necessarily just a Southern California problem either: 52 percent of millennials aged 23 to 28 live with a roommate or their parents, and 29 percent of millennials aged 28 to 34 have yet to make it on their own.
For these reasons – among others that I don’t have the time to get into because time is money, and rent is due soon – millennials are often ridiculed as an underachieving generation lacking the willpower of generations past to make their own way in this world. They think we’re needy, and they’re right.
We need opportunity. Joel Kotkin argues in The Daily Beast that, “In some markets, high rents and weak millennial incomes make it all but impossible to raise a down payment [for a home] … Like medieval serfs in pre-industrial Europe, America’s new generation, particularly in its alpha cities, seems increasingly destined to spend their lives paying off their overlords, and having little to show for it.”
We need support. According to a report published by Young Invincibles, adults aged 25 to 34 earn, on average, 20 percent less in annual income than the same age group did in 1989. As the cost of housing has continued to rise, wages struggled to keep up, and as debates rage whether someone flipping a burger should be making $15 per hour we become focused on the wrong things. There are countless jobs only making minimum wage, from fast-food employees to retail workers to warehouse workers and receptionists. Like it or not, 30 percent of hourly workers make minimum wage, it should at least be a liveable amount.
We need housing. Over the past decade housing production has collapsed, leaving Southern California’s housing market short of demand and forcing prices to skyrocket. Wait lists for low-income (Section 8) housing are routinely years long. This is where our state lawmakers need to step in and find a long-term solution – but then again, millennials almost refuse to vote!
Millennials don’t want hand-outs, but a helping hand would be nice. If we can recognize that the housing crisis we face has developed due to a variety of factors, then we can begin working together to fix these problems for the next generations and make affordable housing a reality, not a slogan.